Southern Asia 1943: Arakan, Chindits, and Bengal Famine

Political map of South & Southwest Asia on 25 Mar 1943 (World War II: The South-East Asian Theater: Arakan, Chindits, and Bengal Famine), showing the following events: Second Battle of El Alamein; First Arakan Campaign; US operation of Persian Corridor; Surrender of the Sixth Army; Operation Longcloth; Bengal Famine.

In late 1942 the British attempted to reconquer the Arakan region of Burma, but they made little headway before being pushed back by the Japanese. They did better further north, where the irregular British 'Chindits' made successful raids through the jungle behind Japanese lines. However, just as these expeditions were coming to a close, famine—induced by the pressures of war and British mismanagement—erupted in nearby Bengal, leading to millions of Indian deaths.


Changes to the map 6 October 1942–25 March 1943

Arakan Campaign: The British have retaken Maungdaw in western Burma and are advancing on Rathedaung.

Chindits: In northern Burma, the British Chindits are harassing the Japanese between Indaw and Mandalay.

Persian Corridor: The US have taken over operations in the Persian Corridor. The Soviets and British however remain in control of the actual occupation of Iran.

British Protectorates in the Persian Gulf

The British Residency of the Persian Gulf maintained British India's influence in a number of Gulf states from the 19th Century until 1947. These states were nominally independent - and shown as such in most atlases from the period - but all signed treaties guaranteeing British control over their foreign affairs.

The Sultanate of Muscat and Oman was the only one of these states with significant international relations, having obtained trade agreements with the US and France before it signed its treaty with Britain. Maps of the time often show Trucial Oman and even Qatar as regions of Oman.

Trucial Oman was the region to the west of Oman which collectively signed treaties with Britain. The sheikhdoms of this region were often called the Trucial States, and later became the United Arab Emirates. However at this time they had little unity, with no regional council until 1952.

Indian Empire

The British Indian Empire, also known as the British Raj, was comprised of a complex of presidencies, provinces, protectorates, and agencies. Only the top level subdivisions are shown here.

The area under direct British rule was known as British India and made up of presidencies and provinces - a presidency simply being the name for an older province.

Outside British India, but often included within the sphere of the presidencies/provinces, were the hundreds of protectorates or 'princely states'. These were indirectly ruled states, the largest being Hyderabad, Kashmir, and Mysore. The others were either collected into agencies - which might in turn contain other smaller agencies - or fell under the sway of the provinces.

Main Events

23 Oct–11 Nov 1942 Second Battle of El Alamein

In late October 1942 the British Eighth Army under General Bernard Montgomery launched an all-out attack on Axis forces west of El Alamein, Egypt. After several days of heated battle, the Allies mounted Operation Supercharge early on the morning of 2 November, breaking through the Italo-German defenses and sending them into flight. However, despite suffering up to 59,000 casualties to the Allies’ 13,560, the Axis managed an orderly retreat under Field Marshal Erwin wikipedia

17 Dec 1942–14 May 1943 First Arakan Campaign

The British 14th Indian Division advances from British India into the Arakan region of Japanese-occupied Burma, occupying Maungdaw. The Japanese withdraw to the Mayu River, north of Akyab, where they successfully repel British attacks from 7 January to 3 February 1943. In March, Japan counterattacks, recapturing Maungdaw on 14 May and pushing the British back to the wikipedia

? Jan–1 May 1943 US operation of Persian Corridor

In the wake of Axis attacks on the Arctic convoy route in 1942, the United States agrees to take over operational control of the Persian Corridor in Iran from the British in order to provide an adequate alternate route of delivering supplies to the Soviet Union. The US operation of and expansion of the facilities of the corridor see aid increase from 51,000 tons in January 1943 to a peak delivery of 282,097 tons in July wikipedia

31 Jan–2 Feb 1943 Surrender of the Sixth Army

On 31 January Soviet forces advancing on the remaining German positions in Stalingrad reach the headquarters of German Field Marshal Friedrich Paulus, commander of the Sixth Army, in the southern pocket and capture him. Two days later,on 2 February, the remainder of the Sixth Army under General Strecker surrenders to the Soviets, ending organized Axis resistance in the wikipedia

13 Feb–29 Apr 1943 Operation Longcloth

In Operation Longcloth, Orde Wingate’s 3,000-man 77 Indian Infantry Brigade—who Wingate dubs the ‘Chindits’ (a mispronunciation of the Burmese word for ‘lion’)—crosses the Chidwin River from British India into northern Burma. From here they demolish several railway bridges between Indaw and Mandalay while attempting to avoid the Japanese occupying forces. After two months of harassing attacks, the 2,182 surviving Chindits withdraw to India in late wikipedia

? Mar–? Dec 1943 Bengal Famine

Following the Japanese seizure of rice-exporting Burma, the British Indian province of Bengal suffers from an acute food shortage. A standoff between the government of India and the provincial governments, exacerbated by British prioritization of the war effort, prevents vital supplies being sent to Bengal in time, resulting in widespread famine. Some 1.5 to 4 million will die from starvation, malnutrition, and disease before the crisis is brought to an wikipedia