Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Independence and Civil War (1945-1951)

1940s
The battles of Meiktila and Mandalay were extremely significant battles in the war between the Allies and the Empire of Japan

The battles of Meiktila and Mandalay were extremely significant battles in the war between the Allies and the Empire of Japan. They changed as well the course of Burmese history. In Cairo in November 1943 the leaders of the new “United Nations”, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Winston Churchill, and Chiang Kai-shek, agreed on an overland invasion of Burma, to restore links between India and China. In June 1944, Allied forces decisively defeated the Japanese at the battles of Kohima and Imphal...

25 June 1900 - 25 June 1903
The birthday of two men tied to anti-colonialism in Myanmar

25 June is the birthday of the two most famous men tied to anti-colonialism in Myanmar: Lord Louis Mountbatten (b. 25 June 1900) the last Viceroy of India, who as Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia during the war agreed in 1945 to support General Aung San and the BIA; and George Orwell (b. 25 June 1903) who was a policeman in Burma (in the 1920s before quiting and going on to become one of the greatest writers and anti-colonial...

20 January 1910
The birth anniversay of U Nyun, one of Myanmar's most distinguished public servants.

U Nyun, one of Myanmar's most distinguished public servants, was born on 20 January 1910 and was educated at Rangoon, Oxford and London Universities. He served in the ICS and then as a senior civil servant in the independent Burma government, before joining the UN in 1953. From 1959 - 1973 he was the Executive Secretary of UN ECAFE (now ESCAP), working directly under Secretaries-General Dag Hammarskjold and U Thant. U Nyun was one of many trained and experienced Burmese...

23 December 1941
Warless days of Myanmar

From 23 December 1941 until today, Myanmar has known no war for only 31 months - from August 1945 when the Japanese surrendered to the Allies to March 1948 when the Communist insurrection began. It is impossible to understand future options in Myanmar without first appreciating the legacies of more than 70 years of armed fighting. This is a photograph of the 1947 Frontier Areas Committee of Enquiry that attempted to find a peaceful solution to the integration of Burma's...

1941 - 8 May 1948
The hanging of U Saw

U Saw was hanged at Insein Jail on 8 May 1948 for the asssasination of General Aung San and his colleagues. Mysteries still surround the assassination but U Saw's involvement is beyond doubt. He was buried in an unmarked grave within the jail. The photo on the left was taken during his 1941 trip to London and Washington as Premier of Burma.

20 March 1945
The battles of Mandalay and Meikhtila

On 20 March 1945 Mandalay was recaptured by the British 14th Army's XXXIII Corps under Lt.General Sir Montagu Stopford. Mandalay had been occupied by the Japanese 15th Army under General Shihachi Katamura, which put up a stiff resistance despite being vastly outnumbered and outgunned. Meitkila had fallen earlier in the month after a major assault that included the 254th and 255th Indian Tank Brigades (the biggest tank battle in Myanmar history). The photograph shows men of the 11th Sikh Regiment...

15 May 1945
The relationship between Lt. General Slim and General Aung San

General Aung San crossed the Irrawaddy at Allanmyo on 15 May 1945 and then flew to Meiktila on 16 May to meet for the first time with Lt General William Slim, commander of the (British) 14th Army. The 14th Army with nearly one million men was the largest Commonwealth army anywhere during World War Two - a giant force of Indians, Africans, British, Gurkhas, Burmese and others. By 16 May the 14th Army had already retaken Rangoon and General Slim...

December 1947
U Nu with Gandhi in Delhi

It's U Nu (then Thakin Nu) with Mahatma Gandhi at Birla House, Delhi, in December 1947, a little over a month before Gandhi was assassinated. Mahatma Gandhi is wearing the Burmese khamauk U Nu had presented him.

1947 - 1995
Jubilee Hall

This is a photograph of Jubilee Hall. Jubilee Hall was a place of immense historic signicance, as the site many public events including the 1947 AFPFL convention, and as the place where Gen. Aung San and his assassinated colleagues lay in state. It was also where Sir John Gielgud, certainly one of the greatest actors ever to have lived, played Hamlet in 1946. Its demolition in 1995 was an act of vandalism, like the destruction of the palace of the...

12 February 1947
Union Day

Union Day today marks the signing of the 12 February 1947 "Panglong Agreement". This followed several days of intense negotiations been members of the Burma Executive Council (led by General Aung San) supported by constitutional and financial expert U Tin Tut; all the Shan sawbwas and other representatives of the "Frontier Areas" (Chin Hills, Kachin Hills, and the Federated Shan States plus Kokang and the Wa Hills); and representatives of the Governor Sir Hubert Rance and the UK Government. The...

1947 - 4 January 1948
Anniversary of Myanmar's independence

To better understand Myanmar's (Burma's) transition to independence (and soon after, civil war), it's important to remember what else was happening in the world. In early 1948 nearly the entire world was in ferment: * The Soviets were blockading Berlin, bringing the new Cold War to near boiling point. * The US would soon approve its ""Marshall Plan"" to rebuilt a war-destroyed Europe. * The UN's Palestine Mandate was just about to end, leading to the birth of Israel and...

15 August 1947
A shared history of India and Burma independence

India became independent from the British Empire on 15 August 1947. The country was partitioned and the new state of Pakistan was created at the same time. India and Burma immediately established diplomatic ties, but as Burma was then not yet an independent republic outside the Commonwealth, the country was represented in New Delhi by a High Commissioner (U Win).

Burma's road to independence was intimately tied with India's. Modern Burmese politics began with the Montagu-Chelmsford reforms of 1917 and the...

13 July 1947
General Aung San’s last speech

On 13 July, 1947, General Aung San gave his final speech from the balcony of City Hall. He was assassinated six days later. (Most of the buildings in the background were demolished after WW2 bomb damage and have been replaced by the Centrepoint and AGD bank buildings.)

December 1947
Premier Thakin Nu with Mahatma Gandhi at Birla House, Delhi in December 1947

The shared anti-colonial history of India and Burma: Premier Thakin Nu with Mahatma Gandhi at Birla House, Delhi in December 1947. Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Napyitaw on 12 November 2014. Indian leaders have been traveling often to this country for over a hundred years - Rabindranath Tagore, Mahatma Gandhi, Pandit Nehru, Sardar Patel, Subhas Chandra Bose, Dr. Ambedkar, and many others. And of course, the last emperor of India Bahadur Shah Zafar was exiled to Rangoon and is...

19 July 1948
The first Martyr's Day 1948.

August 1948
The 1948 government of Burma was genuinely multi-ethnic

August 1948: With communist ("White Flag" and "Red Flag") PVO, and "Mujahideen" insurrections in full swing, President Sao Shwe Thaik and Army Chief General Smith Dun inspect the troops in front of the Rangoon Corporation building. Martial law had just been declared.At the time, Karen, Kachin and Chin battalions were fighting Burmese communist and PVO militias up and down the Irrawaddy valley. It was also a time (the only time) when the government of Burma was genuinely multi-ethnic, with a...

1948
A photograph of the Shwedagon Pagoda in 1948

A photograph taken shortly after independence in 1948 by the great French photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson at the Shwedagon Pagoda. It shows a Burma, perhaps a more elegant Burma, that I think we have lost forever.

4 January 1948
The first Independence Day of Myanmar

The first independence day: Thakin Nu sworn in as the first Prime Minister by the first President Sao Shwe Thaik of Yawnghwe.

22 March 1948
Lord Mountbatten and the children of General Aung San

Another photograph of Lord Mountbatten, with Lady Mountbatten, Daw Aung San Suu Kyi (left) and U Aung San Oo (right), in New Delhi 22 March 1948. Lord Mountbatten was then independent India's first Governor-General. (India was a Dominion from August 1947 - January 1950).

4 January 1948
Rangoon street styles 1948

This photograph is taken in the morning of Independence day 4 January 1948.