Lost Footsteps
Lost Footsteps

Independence and Civil War (1945-1951)

Then about 5 Kyats to one US dollar

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

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...

13 February 1915 - 19 July 1947
Birthday of General Aung San

13 February is the birth anniversary of General Aung San. This is a photograph of General Aung San at the Dorchester Hotel in London during negotiations with the UK government in January 1947. He is flanked by Thakin Mya and U Tin Tut (the delegation's principal negotiator). It was the moment of his greatest triumph. Thakin Mya would be killed together with General Aung San six months later. U Tin Tut was killed in September 1948.

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...

8 May 1941 - 8 May 1948
The Hanging of U Saw

U Saw was hanged at Insein Jail on 8 May 1948 for the assassination 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.

An Old Flag of Myanmar

The current tricolour was first adopted in the 1930s by Dobama Asiayone (the ultra-nationalist "We Burmans" association). It was inspired by the 1919 flag of the Irish Republic. The "State of Burma" (1943-45) adapted the Dobama flag by placing the traditional peacock symbol at the centre (rather than the star used now). The image is from a painting of the August 1943 'independence' ceremony of the "State of Burma" at Government House, Rangoon.

17 May 1945 - June 1946
White Paper on Burma

On 17 May 1945, the British government issued its "White Paper" on the future of Burma. Burma's "Anti-Fascist Organization" (later AFPFL) under General Aung San opposed the programme outlined in the White Paper, leading first to a standoff against the returned British authorities, then to negotiations in London in January 1946 and finally independence outside the Commonwealth in 1948.

The White Paper proposed the following: (1) A period of "direct rule" by the Governor (assisted by an "Executive Council" of...

15 May 1945
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...

July 1945
Labour Party's Election Victory Changed Burma's History

In July 1945, the Labour Party won a landslide victory over the Conservatives and Clement Attlee replaced Sir Winston Churchill as Prime Minister. Labour's election victory without a doubt changed the course of Burma's history. Clement Attlee was committed to decolonization and within a year reversed earlier policies and began moves towards Burmese self-determination. By 1949 the Attlee government had granted independence to India, Pakistan, Burma and Ceylon. A Conservative government under Winston Churchill would almost certainly not have granted...

1946 - 1947
U Aung San's historic meeting with Pandit Nehru.

The AFPFL leader was en route to London to discuss Burmese independence with Prime Minister Clement Attlee. Pandit Nehru helped U Aung San by having his tailor make for him a new set of warm clothes, including a greatcoat for the London winter. The winter of 1946-7 was to be the coldest in England in three centuries, with temperatures falling to -21 degrees Celsius and fuel shortages leading to widespread power cuts.

4 December 1947
U Nu with Gandhi in Delhi 1947

The photograph is from the last meeting between U Nu and Mahatma Gandhi, taken at Birla House, Delhi, on 4 December 1947, a little over a month before Gandhi was assassinated. Mahatma Gandhi was wearing a hat just given to him by soon to be Prime Minister U Nu (then Premier Thakin Nu).

The struggle against British colonialism is a shared history of Burma and India. Mahatma Gandhi visited Rangoon three times: in 1902, 1915 and 1929. He had a...

1947 - 1995
Jubilee Hall

Jubilee Hall was a place of immense historic significance, 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 Kengtung sawbwa around the same time.

15 August 1947 - 4 December 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...

27 January 1947
A photograph of 31-year-old General Aung San

A photograph of General Aung San at his moment of triumph: At 10 Downing Street on 27 January 1947 to negotiate the independence of Burma from the British Empire. (To his left is his closest colleague in the talks, ICS U Tin Tut). He was then 31 years old.

June 1947
In June 1947: U Aung San leads a demonstration down Dalhousie Street to the Secretariat before attending a meeting of the Constituent Assembly.

1 October 1947
Signing of Nu-Attlee Agreement

October 1 is the anniversary of the signing of the Treaty between the Government of the United Kingdom and the Provisional Government of the Union of Burma on the independence of Burma (the "Nu-Attlee Agreement"). The agreement came after months of negotiations led by U Nu (Premier of the Burma Provisional Government), U Tin Tut (Finance Minister) and others. The signing by U Nu and UK Prime Minister Clement Attlee was witnessed by Bo Let Ya (Defense Minister), U Tin...

13 July 1947
General Aung San's Last Speech

On July 13, 1947, U Aung San gave his last speech from the balcony of City Hall to supporters in Fytche Square (now Maha Bandula Park). 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.)

In his speech, he urged Burmese to be more disciplined in the face of challenges ahead. The country, less than two years from the...

The Palladium and the Globe theatres along Sule Pagoda Road, 1947

Playing in the months before independence were "The Exile" with Douglas Fairbanks and "Blood and Sand" with Rita Hayworth and Tyrone Powers. Next door was the fabled Smart & Mookerdum bookshop, a favourite of Eric Blair (George Orwell) and many others. In 1942 U Po Sein had performed at the Palladium for over 2,000 guests, including Colonel Suzuki and other top Japanese officers. Rangoon is one of the oldest movie-making and movie-watching cities in all of Asia. And its' cinema...

12 February 1947
Union Day: Anniversary of the 1947 Panglong Agreement

"Union Day" (12 February) marks the anniversary of the "Panglong Agreement" of 1947. There is considerable mythology surrounding the Panglong Agreement and it's important to remember what it was and what it was not.

U Aung San led the Burma delegation to London in January 1947 to negotiate the country's independence from Britain. He was very ably assisted by ICS U Tin Tut. The British side was represented principally by the Labour politician Sir Stafford Cripps and the Secretary of...