~ 574 FIELD SECURITY SECTION ~
3 SPECIAL SERVICE BRIGADE
These are the recollections of Sgt Jack
Lawrence of the 574 Field Security Section, Special Service Brigade, as compiled by Chris Frost. They are supplemented by his own
father's memories of wartime service, his father's papers, unit war
diaries and information gathered from published accounts of the Burma
For that part of his career, relevant to 3 Special Service Brigade,
Chris's father, Captain Austin Thomas Dillon Frost (Tom), served in
574 Field Security Section (574 FSS), as an intelligence officer.
It's likely that 574 FSS did not operate directly under the
Combined Operations Command. However, where 574's activities involved
amphibious landings, or raids, Commando support was often provided...
as in the case of
the main 'snatching' operation described on this page. My father's pay
records indicate that he was 'attached' to other units, but always noted as being in the Intelligence Corps (IC).
His reporting line was up through the IC route. His war diaries have many references to trips by LCP
(Landing Craft Personnel), especially in the region of the Naf river.
Field Security, was set up following an assessment of the shortcomings of Army
Intelligence, before and during World War I. During the years 1914-18, the
Intelligence Police were formed to protect troops against the work of enemy
agents among the civilian population in the theatre of war. It was very much an
emergency arrangement and with poor recruitment, selection, inadequate training
and poor supervision, their efforts often caused more problems than they solved.
With lessons learnt between 1937 and 1940 the Field Security Police were formed
as a wing of the Corps of Military Police (CMP) at Mytchett near Farnborough,
UK. NCOs of outstanding ability were trained in small numbers and sent back to
their units. At the outbreak of WW2 sections of these trained men were formed in
support of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force (BEF). Other sections were
formed at ports from local residents and both did excellent work. However, the
BEF Sections were hampered by a lack of language skills and by the public
perception of the word 'police' which did not encourage locals to come forward
My father was born in Poona, India and consequently spoke Urdu fluently. He
enlisted in 1939 at the Artists' Rifles Drill Hall in Euston Road, London and
after initial officer training was posted to India in 1941. After
acclimatisation, he was attached to Royal Gharwhal Rifles based at Landi Kotal
on the Kyber Pass in April 1942. In march 1943 he was transferred into the
Intelligence Corps and underwent a 3 month training programme.
On 15 June 1943, he was promoted Acting Captain and given the task of forming
574 FSS in Karachi, attached to the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. 574 FSS was
a composite section made up of both British and Indian troops, including
Sergeants Jack Lawrence, Eddie Redding and George Grasby. [Photo;
Capt Frost in Dutch Celebes - October 1945.]
A typical composite section when at full complement consisted of: 1 FSO
(Lieutenant or Captain); 1 Warrant Officer; 2 Sergeants; 3 Corporals; 1 VCO (Jemadar);
3 Havildar; 3 Naiks; 2 L/Naiks and 1 batman-driver (BOR/IOR). When fully
equipped the section was provided with two 15 cwt trucks; 8 motor cycles and 5
five bicycles. The section was equipped with Sten guns.
574 FSS was initially attached to 3 Special Service Brigade, a Commando unit
with special duties. 3 Special Service Brigade was a combined unit consisting of
5 Commando and 44 Royal Marine Commando. The Brigade was attached to XXXIII
India Corps under the command of Lieutenant General (later Sir) Montague
Stopford. In theory only volunteers were required for special duties as
illustrated in the following recruitment scenario.
The section was assembled in a circle around a colonel who explained that the
work would be difficult and dangerous. He added that no one who was apprehensive
about the prospect would be required to go. 'I want only volunteers,' he said
and looked at each of them in turn. 'Any of you who are scared should step into
the centre now.' He paused for effect and added, 'Let's see who the yellow
bellies are.' No-one moved so he declared them all to be volunteers! Apocryphal
or not the point is made - the work was not for the timid or faint hearted.
Field Security I(B), responsible for military and civil security,
carried out both espionage and counterespionage activities. This
sometimes involved setting up networks of local agents who reported to
FS. More typically, the role of FS in peace time was to set up
counterespionage operations in towns and villages. In Burma this
included tracking down agents in villages and towns that had been
retaken from the Japanese and seeking out and arresting double agents
in Japanese held territory.
In Bombay the Section began training in earnest for their first action, a
seaborne invasion of the Arakan. In November the section regrouped and soon took
part in a Beach Operation in the Mahd Island area near Bombay. The operation was
scheduled for 14 November 1943 and for operational purposes the section was
divided into three groups; the Advance Party; the Train Party and the Rear
Party. Sergeant Lawrence led the Advance Party with a 15 cwt truck and the bulk
of section stores. The Train Party under CQMS Chappell loaded two motor cycles
and five bicycles on to a train and travelled in relative comfort to the
assembly point on the coast. The Rear Party, led by Captain Frost, followed with
a second 15 cwt truck and the section jeep.
The Section boarded a naval vessel and sailed to a point off the coast. They
clambered into a landing craft and set off towards the distant shoreline. As
they approached the beach, Sergeant Eddie Redding wondered whom the enemy was
when, having called for absolute silence, the major in charge of the landing
craft grabbed a soldier by the throat for daring to speak and shook a clenched
fist in the man's face. 'If you utter another word, I'll smash your f*****g
face in,' he whispered. It turned out that this was the CO of the unit (part of
3 Special Service Brigade) to which they were to be attached. The CO knew that
any breach of discipline while in action against the enemy could be the
difference between life and death. The point was well made!
For the most part the men enjoyed the training which was a welcome relief
from the routine of barrack life. However, as news of the good progress of the
fighting in Europe and in the Far East arrived, Lt Frost became increasingly
frustrated by the diminishing prospect of seeing action... he could be heard
grumbling to anyone who would listen about 'not being up with the fun.'
The exercises were not always on a grand scale. On one occasion 574 FSS took
an Arab dhow to check out places where illegal landings might be made. At night
they slept on deck together under the spare canvas sails. The dhow was about the
size of a fishing smack and was riddled with cockroaches and voracious bedbugs.
The men messed on tinned bacon heated over a charcoal fire on a slab of rock as
cockroaches chased each other over their feet. The latrine consisted of a rope
to hang on to and two planks stuck out over the sea - one for each foot.
On the 29th of December 1943 the Section moved from Bombay to
Ahmednagar near Poona and then on to Kurla for medical examinations. The
'examinations' were brief. 'You all look OK to me,' the Medical Officer said,
'so I'll not bother examining you unless you think that there is something I
should know about.' They were all passed fit for active service!
They moved on again. This time to a place called Kedgodan. Sergeants
Redding and Lawrence went by motor cycle. On the way a bullock charged
across the road and smashed into Sergeant Lawrence. He left his bike at 40
mph and landed in a ditch on the other side of the road. The bike was a
write-off and Sergeant Lawrence was left with a bad cut below his left
knee that almost ended his time in 574 FS section.
[Photo; Cpt Frost, centre, with members of the Section in Dutch Celebes -
On 7 February 1944 574 FSS moved from Kedgodan
and back to Ahmednagar where it was once again attached to 3 Special Service
Brigade. Two weeks later, on 22 February at midday, the Section set off on a
secret mission from Bombay on HMS Keren, an auxiliary cruiser. When at
sea cholera inoculations were ordered for all personnel. They sailed past
Colombo to Madras arriving at 10:30 am on 27 February to take on stores.
They sailed as part of a convoy from Madras on 27
February 1944 and continued towards their, as yet, secret destination, stopping
briefly in Ceylon. They then left on what was to be the last leg of their
journey across the Bay of Bengal. For most of the time they had no idea what
their mission was but the issue of mepacrine (anti-malaria) tablets left them in
very little doubt.
When they were clear of Madras Captain Frost called
a 'prayer meeting.' He opened a sealed envelope and brought out several files,
one for each member of the section. The files contained detailed descriptions,
photographs and addresses of Japanese collaborators living in the so called
Millionaires' Square in Akyab. The information was based on intelligence
provided by Lieutenant Colonel Tony Mains, Chief Security Officer, XIV Army GSO
II in late 1943. The collaborators were to be arrested immediately prior to the
recapture of Akyab. The plan for 3 Special Service Brigade Commandos was to make
a surprise landing on the island and for 574 FSS to go in after them. The latter
were to locate the premises concerned, arrest the individuals found there and
bring them out. It was to be a swift snatch.
[Map courtesy of Google Map
In the event the landing never took place. It is thought that the strength of
the Japanese based on Akyab was found to be greater than expected following
aerial reconnaissance. Instead both 3 Special Service Brigade and 574 FSS
section landed at Cox's Bazaar on the Bengal coast on 4 March 1944. After a
short stay they travelled down the River Naf to a small village called Nihila on
the Teknaf Peninsular overlooking occupied Burma. Their new base was less than
40 miles from the place Captain Frost's brother Harry had been killed. From this
base 3 Special Service Brigade Commandos made several raids sustaining
casualties, but 574 FSS section did not go with them. By the end of March
casualties in 5 Commando alone were 23 killed in action, 2 who subsequently died
of wounds received and 42 wounded.
Meanwhile in the Arakan the fighting continued and
the Section was kept very busy. Sergeants Lawrence and Redding made many
journeys up narrow river creeks by kishti, a native boat rowed by a man standing
in the rear. Their normal modus operandi was to visit small villages to
ascertain if any strangers had been seen in the area. The headman usually set up
a large table under the village mango tree and produced a selection of homemade
alcoholic brews of uncertain origin. The two soldiers joined in the drinking and
did their best to continue the discourse despite the effects of the powerful
It was not uncommon for Section members to be
detached to gather information in far flung places and to send back reports.
Sergeant Eddie Redding, for example, was sent on detachment at Maungdaw. From
there, he made frequent visits to Bathidong, St. Martins Island and IV Corps HQ,
always keeping in radio contact with Captain Frost back at Nihila.
From time to time more unusual situations arose
requiring the expertise of FSS. On one occasion the Section received information that a
member of 'V' Force had been acting as a double agent. Captain Frost, together
with Sergeant Lawrence, crossed the river into the Arakan to bring the agent in. In the course of this operation they visited Maungdaw
where a most remarkable meeting took place. As they met an Intelligence Corps
Sergeant, Sergeant Lawrence felt they had met before... a view shared by the
Corp Sergeant. After a while Sergeant Lawrence exclaimed, "Graece Audaciar!"...
a phrase immediately recognised by the other. It transpired that they had been
students in the same Latin class at Grammar School back in England. In the
account of Caesar's wars the phrase "Graece audaciar," occurs frequently. It
means "the brave Greeks," but when spoken sounded like "Crikey 'ow dark ee are."
In the winter months Sgt Lawrence's classmate Harrison often cried out "Graece
audaciar" during class and the Latin beak always replied with no trace of a
smile: "Very well Harrison, put the lights on!" They never saw Sergeant Johnny
Harrison again after leaving him in his jungle hideout. He came under heavy
shellfire and may not have come out alive.
Captain Frost and Sergeant Lawrence continued
through the British lines and were briefed on the whereabouts of the V Force
operative, Mohammed Khan. When they tracked him down the real purpose of the
operation was disguised when he was told that he was required back at base for a
special briefing. He was
eventually taken to XV Corps Head Quarters in Bawli Bazaar but not long after, he escaped.
Returning at night from an expedition, Sergeants
Lawrence and Ewebank stumbled upon a forward lookout post. A Sikh soldier
challenged them "Pass friend." When they attempted to pass, he shot
his rifle bolt and shouted again "Pass friend!" Realising that the Sikh soldier asking for the password, they stopped in their tracks. To continue
would risk being fired upon without further ceremony. Sergeant Lawrence did not
know the password and Sergeant Ewebank had forgotten it. Fortunately for them
both, Sergeant Ewebank's loss of memory was only temporary and he shouted back
the day's date... "Eighteenth of March!" They were allowed to proceed.
Frequently, when returning from these
operations the men found that the tide had ebbed and they were forced to cross
considerable stretches of mud flats, sometimes sinking alarmingly. However,
experience soon taught them they would not disappear and they almost become used
to the stinking slime.
On the night of the departure of 3 Special Service brigade, members of the
Section were out on a night patrol by Landing Craft Personnel (LCP) on the Naf
River. Captain Frost had the bright idea that it might be possible to swim
across cross the river rather than crawl across the tidal mud flats. The problem
was that the combination of the river flowing into the sea and the rise of the
tidal waters created a rip tide. The Section members were not convinced that it
was safe so Captain Frost dived fully clothed into the maelstrom to lead the
way. Within seconds he had vanished. As nothing could be done the Section
members brewed a cup of tea. An hour later Captain
Frost turned up covered in mud and looking very bedraggled. He looked at
his men and said with a grin, "You sh**s!"
Frost's Diary Entries
These are relevant entries of 574FSS's time in the Arakan
taken from of Captain Frost's war diaries. Diary entries appear in block letters
with supplementary information, provided by his son, in brackets.
02 APR 44
SGT RETURNS FROM WHAIKHYANG TOUR.
06 APR 44
CAP BUTT GIII I(B) 15
(IND) CORPS VISITED SECTION HQ
08 APR 44
LCP NIGHT PATROL ON
10 APR 44
DET TO TUMBRU TO
LIAISE WITH 588 FS AT UKHIA
15 APR 44
FSO VISITED MAUNGDAW
AND SAW CAPT BURGESS FSO 606 FS SECTION. (Attached to 25 Indian Division at Maungdaw).
19 APR 44
SUSPECTS TAKEN TO FIC
15(IND) CORPS AT BAWLI BAZAAR BY LCP. (574 FS took suspects to IV Corps HQ).
26 APR 44
IOR DET TO TEKNAF TO
WORK WITH MAJOR ROBERTSON OC V FORCE, TEKNAF (An IOR detachment was sent to Teknaf to work with Major Robertson, oic of 'V'Force).
28 APR 44
CSM LEAVES NIHILA FOR
INDIA TO BRING UP REMAINING SECTIONS STORES (Jamadar Nor Mohammed and Warrant Officer Ewebank were sent from
Chittagong to P/A to bring up the remaining stores.
29 APR 44
FSO LEAVES FOR TOUR OF
TUMBRU AREA. (Captain Frost left for a tour of the Tumbra area).
30 APR 44
01 MAY 44
09 MAY 44
VISIT OF FSO TO TEKNAF IN
LCP TO SEE MAJOR ROBERTSON OC V FORCE. (Left Section HQ in Nihila to Bawli Bazaar).
16 MAY 44
ORDERS TO MOVE SECTION TO HAFALONG SENT VERBALLZ THROUGH CAPT GHANDY OC NO
FS SECTION FROM HQ 15 (IND) CORPS.
(The Section received verbal orders from Captain Gandy, OC ??? FS from
HQ 15 (Indian) Corps to prepare move on to Hafalong. Next day, all detachments
were brought back to Section HQ at Tumbra by LWT.
By 24 May, the Section was at Dohazari Railway Head. They were billeted in Rest
Camp 69. It was not until 9
June, that they finally left Dohazari. After three days hard travel, they
arrived at Badapur. There, they were given verbal orders of a change in plans.
They were to drive to Silchar in Assam, using their own transport).
Although not part of this story Captain Frost was
later posted to Indochina (Operation Masterdom) in September 1945 and with 200
others flew to Saigon to take the surrender of 70,000 Japanese troops while the
rest of the Division went by sea. At this time he was then commanding 604 FS who
were attached to HQ 20 (Indian Division). As the Viet Cong under Ho Chi Min (who
had been trained and armed by the Americans) started to cause problems, the
Allies had to re-arm some Japanese soldiers to provide protection while the main
force was still at sea. My father told me that he ended up driving around Saigon
in his jeep with armed Japanese troops providing close protection - which
must have been a strange turn of events as he had been fighting against the
Japanese in Burma just a few weeks before. A later mission saw Captain Frost in
the Dutch Celebes to help resolve a mutiny of Dutch troops.
There are around 300 books listed on our 'Combined Operations Books' page
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Field Security - Very Ordinary Intelligence
by Lt. Col. Mains, published by Piction Publishing (Chippenham) Ltd... an
account about his time in the Intelligence Corps where he attained the position
of Chief Intelligence Officer of Central Command in India in 1946.
Chris would like to hear from anyone with information about the
574 Field Security Section; Special Service Brigade
and its operations.
This account of the 574 Field Security Section; Special Service Brigade
was compiled by Chris Frost from the recollections of Sgt Jack Lawrence. They are supplemented by his own
father's memories of wartime service, his father's papers, unit war
diaries and information gathered from published accounts of the Burma