~ 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 raids and major landings, 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 through the IC route rather than the command route of the
unit he was attached to. 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 from enemy
agents working among the civilian population in the theatre of war. It was very
much an emergency arrangement with inadequacies in recruitment, selection, training
and supervision. Their interventions 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) based at Mytchett near Farnborough,
UK. Small numbers of NCOs of outstanding ability were trained in field
security techniques and sent back to
their units. At the outbreak of WW2, sections of these trained men operated in
support of the ill-fated British Expeditionary Force (BEF) while others were
formed at ports from local residents. Both did excellent work. However, the BEF Sections were hampered by a lack of language skills and
the port operatives were hampered by negative public
perceptions of the word 'police' which discouraged locals from coming forward
father was born in Poona, India and he 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, in April 1942, he was attached to the Royal Gharwhal Rifles based at Landi Kotal
on the Kyber Pass. In March 1943, he was transferred into the
Intelligence Corps and underwent a further 3 months training programme.
Capt Frost in Dutch Celebes - October 1945.]
On 15 June 1943, he was promoted Acting Captain and tasked to form
574 FSS in Karachi, attached to the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. 574 FSS was
a composite section, comprising both British and Indian troops, including
Sergeants Jack Lawrence, Eddie Redding and George Grasby.
A typical composite section, when at full complement, comprised; 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, 5
five bicycles and Sten guns.
was initially attached to 3 Special Service Brigade, a Commando unit with
special duties. The Brigade was a combined unit consisting of
5 Commando and 44 Royal Marine Commando 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 was made - the work was not for the timid or faint hearted.
Field Security I(B) was responsible
for military and civil security. They
carried out both espionage and counterespionage activities, which could
require them to set up networks of local agents who reported to
FS. Typically, the role of FS in peace time was to set up
counterespionage operations in towns and villages. In Burma, this
included tracking down 'enemy' agents in villages and towns retaken
from the Japanese and identifying and arresting double agents
in Japanese held territory.
In Bombay, the Section began training in earnest for their first
seaborne invasion of the Arakan. In November, the Section regrouped and took
part in a beach operation in the Mahd Island area near Bombay. The operation was
scheduled for 14 November 1943. 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 carrying the bulk
of the 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 reunited Section boarded a naval vessel and sailed to a
predetermined 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.
He was speaking to the CO of the unit (part of 3 Special Service Brigade) to which the
section was to be attached. The CO understood 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 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 travelled by motor cycle but, 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.
On 7 February 1944, 574 FSS moved from Kedgodan
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. While at
sea, cholera inoculations were ordered for all personnel. They sailed past
Colombo to Madras arriving there at 10:30 am on 27 February to take on stores.
that day, they sailed, as part of a convoy, from Madras on and continued towards their, as yet, secret destination, stopping
briefly in Ceylon before crossing the Bay of Bengal on the last stage of their
journey. Not until they left Madras did they know anything about their mission,
although, the earlier issue of Mepacrine (anti-malaria) tablets left them in
very little doubt.
[Map courtesy of Google Map
Captain Frost called
a 'prayer meeting', at which he opened a sealed envelope which contained 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.
In the event the landing never took place, most likely because the
strength of the Japanese garrison on Akyab was greater than expected following
recent 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 where Captain Frost's brother, Harry, was killed. From this
base, 3 Special Service Brigade Commandos made several raids, sustaining
casualties, but there was no role for 574 FSS Section. By the end of March,
casualties in 5 Commando alone were 23 killed in action, 2 who subsequently died
from their wounds and 42 other wounded.
In the Arakan, the fighting continued and
the Section was deployed on numerous occasions. Sergeants Lawrence and Redding made many
journeys up narrow river creeks by kishti, a native boat rowed by a man standing
in the rear. The Section's 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
continued the discourse as best they could despite the effects of the powerful
It was not uncommon for Section members to be
detached for intelligence gathering operations in far flung places and to send back reports.
Sergeant Eddie Redding, for example, was dispatched to Maungdaw, from
where he made frequent visits to Bathidong, St Martins Island and IV Corps HQ,
all the while reporting back to Captain Frost at Nihila by radio.
From time to time, more unusual situations arose,
which required the expertise of the FSS. On one occasion, it was
suspected that a member of 'V' Force was 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
to obtain a briefing from the Intelligence Corps
Sergeant. Sergeant Lawrence felt they had met before and so did the
Corp Sergeant, but where? Inexplicably at the time, Sergeant Lawrence exclaimed, "Graece Audaciar!"...
a phrase immediately recognised by the other!
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
meaning "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 master, without any hint of a smile, once
replied "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 survived.
Captain Frost and Sergeant Lawrence continued
through the British lines and were briefed on the whereabouts of the V Force
operative, Mohammed Khan. They tracked him down and convinced him to return to
base for a special briefing. He was
eventually taken to XV Corps Head Quarters in Bawli Bazaar but, not long after, he escaped.
[Photo; Cpt Frost, centre, with members of the Section in Dutch Celebes -
At the end of another
Lawrence and Ewebank came upon a forward lookout post as they made there way
back to base. 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
was asking for the password, they stopped dead 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 operations,
the tide had receded leaving considerable stretches of mud flats to negotiate to
reach their craft. The flats were deep, thick, stinking and slimy. Was there an
alternative? On the night 3 Special Service brigade departed, members of the
Section conducted a night patrol by Landing Craft Personnel (LCP) on the Naf
River. Captain Frost thought it might be possible to swim
across the river rather than crawl across the tidal mud flats. 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!" He had underestimated the
hazardous nature of the rip tide as the river, flowing into the sea, battled
against the rising tide opposing it!
Frost's Diary Entries
These are relevant entries of 574FSS's time in the Arakan
taken from 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 re-armed some Japanese soldiers to provide close protection, while the
main force was still at sea. For some time, my father
drove around Saigon in his jeep with armed Japanese troops providing cover - a
surreal experience considering his recent tour of duty in Burma. A later mission
saw Captain Frost helping resolve a mutiny of Dutch
troops in the Dutch Celebes.
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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
of the Burma campaign.