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“In this their finest hour”

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Elias Bell

Known as Eli


1911/09/15 - Born Tutbury, Staffordshire

Son of Eli Bell

1940/07/03 - Enlisted

Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers




Wikipedia Map of Battle for Yenangyaung

The Battle of Yenangyaung was fought in the vicinity of Yenangyaung and its oil fields.

After the Japanese captured Rangoon in March 1942, the Allies regrouped in Central Burma. The newly formed Burma Corps, commanded by Lieutenant General William Slim, was made up with British, Indian and locally raised Burmese troops. They tried to defend the  Irrawaddy River  Valley.

The Japanese wanted the oil fields at Yenangyaung and the battle started 10th April 1942.

From 13th to 17th April, the British fell back under attacks by the Japanese. On 15th April, Lieutenant General Slim gave orders for the oil fields and refinery to be demolished. The Japanese roadblocks split the Burma Frontier Force. The situation became so critical and the Japanese took many prisoners, Elias being one captured on the 17th or 19th April (different dates on records).


Japanese PoW

1942/04/19 - Captured Yenangyaung

PoW No. VI 179


Japanese Index Card - Side One


Japanese Index Card - Side Two


Rangoon Jail

New PoW No. IV 1859

Apart from the British PoWs who were marched out of Rangoon Jail by the Japanese on 25th April 1945, there were some 150 who were considered unfit to undertake the march and left behind.

These 150 were subsequently released and evacuated to hospitals in India. This report issued as a supplement to the ‘E’ Group Consolidated Interrogation Report, is based on a selective Interrogation.

The following details of events after the PoWs had been marched out were given by a Senior Officer PoW (R.A.A.F) left behind in the Jail.

When the Japanese marched the party out of the Jail on 25th April 1945, new guards were brought into the Jail.

These guards were very slovenly ex-civilians, and took over the guarding of the Jail until 29th April.

On the evening of 29th April, these guards came round the prison as usual and issued the normal orders.

Later that evening PoWs heard considerable noise coming from the Japanese quarters, followed by the sound of vehicles being driven away.

Suspecting that the guards might have left the Jail, a PoW went to confirm this. He jumped over the wall and met the PoW C.O. of No. 2 Block who had had a note telling him that the Japanese had gone.

Japanese Note which was left:-

“To The Whole Captured Prisoners of Rangoon Jail”

According to the Nippon military order, we hereby give you the liberty and admit to leave this place at your own free will.

Regarding food and other materials kept in this compound, we give you permission to consume them, as far as necessity is concerned.

We hope to have the opportunity to meet you again at battlefield somewhere.

We shall continue our war effort eternally in order to get the emancipation of all Asian races.

Sgn. The Chief Officer of the Rangoon Jail

Thinking this might be a trick a PoW and an Indian doctor went to the main building and opened the gate.

Attached to the gate was another note saying the Japanese had gone.



Bravely you have come here opening prison. We have gone, keeping your prisoners safely with Nipponese Knightship. Afterwards we might meet again at the front somewhere. There let us fight bravely each other.

Nipponese Army

(We kept the gate’s keys at the gate room)

PoWs then locked the gate,  armed the other prisoners with any ‘weapons’ they could lay their hands on, and mounted guard until dawn.

Next morning contacted some Burmese PoWs, as senior officer in the Jail, ordered them to inform any responsible I.N.A. to report to him and , in due course a number of armed members of the I.N.A. reported to the Jail.

On orders from PoWs, the Jail was fortified and guarded as well as possible with the limited personnel and equipment available, and he with a member of the I.N.A. virtually took over control of Rangoon until arrival of the troops.

Elias was on list of British POWs liberated from Rangoon Jail 1945

Evacuated to hospital in India


Vanessa Bell


COFEPOW Liberation Questionnaire

KEW:- WO 392/23, WO 345/4, WO 361/1946, AIR 40/1855,


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