Mr David Annett, wartime RA officer, was recorded for the Centre in 2000 and also donated material to the archive consisting of letters, programmes, photographs, service documents, and a short history of 24 Field Battery, 27th Field Regt RA 1940-1945.
David Annett was born in 1917 near Ipswich, the son of a serving Indian Army officer whom he did not see until he was seven years old.
David graduated from Cambridge University in 1939 and took up a teaching post at Arundel School. He was called up into the Army in March 1940 and, because of pacifist views he had acquired at Cambridge, initially chose to go into the RAMC. After a year or so however, his views changed and he applied for a commission and was accepted into the RA.
He was commissioned into the 27th Field Regt RA as a Lieutenant, and trained with the regiment in Kent towards the end of 1941.
Initially he was a Troop Leader in 24 Field Battery, acting as the number two to the Troop Commander. There were three batteries in the regiment, and each battery had two troops. Each troop had four 25 pounder guns.
In May 1942 David and his regiment sailed for India, landing at Bombay in July. The regiment moved by rail to Bangalore to await transport and guns, and then moved on to Salem, southern India in August when it came under the command of 25 Indian Division acting as the divisional artillery regiment.
The regiment moved to Madras in July 1943 and then to Bangalore in early 1944 for training. In Autumn 1943 it was converted into a Jungle Field Regiment and equipped with 3.7 Howitzers. During 1943 David became a Command Post Officer (CPO)
In 1944 the regiment moved to the Arakan region of Burma in support of 51 Indian Infantry Brigade. David’s battery, 24 Field Battery, went into action at Kanbyin, in the Western Mayu foothills. The Arakan region is on the west coast of Burma and a line of very steep, jungle covered mountains runs down the coast a mile or so inland. Japanese troops were known to be in the mountains and on the coast and the regiment’s objective was to:
‘… work down the coast with the ultimate object, which we achieved, of reaching Rangoon right at the southern tip of Arakan’
David acted as a Forward Observation Officer (FOO) and in that role went out with the infantry:
‘An artillery officer always goes forward with the advanced infantry units with a wireless communication and controls his guns from behind in support of the infantry’
It was difficult terrain lined with mangrove swamps and numerous streams and rivers which had to be crossed:
‘… the guns were put in action in a suitable place as near to the coast as possible so one didn’t have to hump then around too far, and then they supported the infantry who were operating up in the mountains or even on the other side. It was very tricky firing because the maps were very inadequate, the hills were very steep and one was never quite sure where one’s rounds were falling’
Day to day living conditions were tough – dense jungle, tropical diseases, monsoon rains, and venomous snakes. Accommodation consisted of:
‘… holes in the ground with tarpaulins on top’
Food however was never a problem as there was a highly organized system of air drops for this, and for all other supplies. Sometimes too organized for his liking as David relates:
‘ I had just come back from a rather exhausting hike with the infantry and my battery commander said ‘I am sorry old chap but you’ve got to go off straight away with this, these other ones’, and I said ‘I would love to sir, I am terribly sorry but the sole’s come off my boots and I can’t possibly walk another inch’. He said ‘Oh, no trouble at all. We’ll rustle up a few’, and within half an hour a pair of boots came in by air-drop and I had to go out again’
David was in action in Burma for over a year and:
‘.. in all that time I never saw a live Jap. That will show you how thick the undergrowth was’
During David’s time on active service in Burma his battery commander, a keen ornithologist, trained him and his fellow officers in bird watching. Military priorities were not always uppermost in the battery commander’s mind. Stationed one day in the mountains, warily watching for any signs of the Japanese, David received a field phone call from him asking:
‘Seen anything interesting?’
‘No sir,’ David replied ‘I haven’t seen a Jap all day’ to which came the immediate response:
‘I don’t care about the bloody Japs, seen any good birds?’
27 Field Regiment continued its trek southward towards Rangoon, and it took part in the sea borne landing in May 1945 when troops from 24 Battery, including David, were the first gunners into Rangoon from which the Japanese had already fled.
The regiment remained in Rangoon for some time after, and David was still in Burma at the end of the war in the Far East. He returned to the UK for demobilization, and post-war he continued his teaching career becoming headmaster at King’s School, Worcester for a number of years.
Following David’s death in 2004, further material was received from his family including his biography, a photocopy of his wartime diary, and more photographs.