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CHINTHE WOMEN

Women's Auxiliary Service (Burma)  
1942-46 

Introduction - Char and Wads
Mobile Canteens - Army Entertainment
Reviews - Order Details

Introduction   

This web page is about "Chinthe Women", a publication which contains contemporary reminiscences, photographs and diaries about an unusual band of women, who worked alongside troops close to the frontline during the Burma Campaign of World War Two. They ran mobile canteens for all the troops in the "Forgotten Army". The 250 members of the Women's Auxiliary Service (Burma), WAS(B), also tended the starving British POWs as they were rescued from building the Burma Railway. 


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CHINTHE WOMEN was researched and published by Sally and Lucy Jaffe, daughter and granddaughter of Commandant Nin Taylor, who formed and led the WAS(B). She was awarded an OBE for her contribution to the war. 
 
Sally Jaffe commented,  
"I wanted to find out more about my mother, who died in 1952. Through the strong network of surviving WAS(B) I unearthed a wealth of personal stories about this unique band of women operating in a war zone, which you can read in CHINTHE WOMEN." 


Copies cost £6 incl. p & p
Please make cheques payable to S.Jaffe
Send orders or enquiries to Chinthe Women c/o Rockhill Cottage, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7 5BA.
Contact us at

Char and Wads  

Some soldiers joked they were never without a WAS(B) between them and the frontline often working within the sound of guns. Far from home, the women shared the grueling living conditions and relentless heat with the soldiers whom they served, and for this they were held in the highest regard.  

One WAS(B) recalls in the book,
"All through November and December troops were pouring through Dohazari on their way East preparing for the 3rd Arakan Campaign. Our mobile canteens went further and further down the road so as to be as close as possible to the troops in action. We took a mobile canteen down to Buthidaung only a few days after the Japanese departed, and lived in tents. We met the 82 West African Division, which was coming out of the jungle and had been on air supply for days."
 


 

One soldier remembers,
"The Burma Road was being washed away as my Platoon was marching towards Pegu. In the distance we saw a lone lady standing by a table in the rain, and as we got nearer we saw she had lots of mugs of hot tea on the table. She gave us all tea and a packet of cigs and a wad. She was a lovely Scots lady who must have been 50 years old. I spoke to her and told her she was too near the guns, and she should go to a safer place, after all the Japs were only 4 miles up the road. She would not leave and said, "There will be other soldiers behind you who will want tea. I am just a WAS(B)."
  




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Mobile Canteens
 



The WAS(B)s looked after troops and POWs from all regiments and of all nationalities. 
 

 

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Recalls Elaine Cheverton,
"We were in Rangoon when the POWs were being pulled out from the 'Death Railway'. This was their first bit of freedom, all incredibly dazed and thin, wearing tattered clothing. When they got off the plane, we were doing the cake and teas, which was quite a shock for them. They hadn't seen women and some wanted to talk all the time. We gave out all the supplies of capes and shoes. I don't think anyone realised the extent of the suffering." 

"We moved with our canteen by ship to Ramree Island, where we were attached to 26th Indian Division. News came of the end of the war in Europe and VE day. A celebratory race meeting on the beach was organised. We went there with our canteen and served mugs of tea. We had painted 'No.10 WAS(B) Canteen' on each mug with nail varnish and charged a deposit of 10 rupees, because they were like gold dust. I saw one soldier with one of our mugs attached to his belt and did not have the heart to challenge him. The beaches on Ramree Island are beautiful and the sand was firm. The very next day a vehicle was blown up by a mine, which had been buried by the Japanese and the high tide had brought it to the surface." 

Army Entertainment 

British women were in short supply in Burma during the four year Campaign in Burma. They were in large demand to dance with and provide company for the soldiers and to raise morale, which they did with great enthusiasm and creativity as you can read in these extracts from CHINTHE WOMEN

Betty Donaldson joined the WAS(B) in 1945, newly widowed, "I was on the evening shift when we had to provide food and dancing skills. The evening was in full swing. I was hot and tired and my feet were sore because all the soldiers danced in their fighting boots. I leant over and invited one young lad to come and dance. He pointed down to the floor. He had no legs, nothing, nothing at all.  

These extracts are from Chinthe Women, published in June 2001.

'Bubbles' Clayton wrote home in 1945,
"We spend the night under parachute tents. Our first days were a whirl. We opened the afternoon of our arrival and have been open twice a day every day. Last night's dance was a success, some ENSA lads (army entertainment troupe) turned up and gave a cabaret, and the highlight of the evening was doing the Palais Glide." 

 

 

Majorie Ussher wrote home faithfully every week,

"We're going out somewhere every night. Tomorrow, Monday, I am going to Signals' Mess (dance) - Tuesday - cocktail dance at the Club with Vernon Scopes - Wed. cinema at 6pm with Brigid Wheelan then on to BOR's dance given by Army Fire Service. Thursday - Red Cross Dance. Friday party at Ordnance Mess - Saturday dance at club. This all on top of a hard day's work!"

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Reviews 

"I have been waiting with a certain degree of pleasurable anticipation to the publication of your story of the WAS(B). Having now read it I can say the waiting has been worthwhile. I thoroughly enjoyed the way you tackled the subject and the insight it gave me into how a relatively small band of ladies managed to give such sterling service for so long under such difficult conditions." (Ex-serviceman) 

"Very many congratulations on "Chinthe Women", which is splendid - much better than the official history which somehow didn't catch the spirit of the Wasbies." (Ex-WAS(B)) 

"The layout is so good and works brilliantly with the way you have chosen and presented the material." (Reader) 

"Research and presentation are good, the photographs a delight to see. Collecting the stories of so many of the women is greatly to the credit of the authors." (Everyone's War Magazine)




"This delightful booklet traces the story of the WAS(B). A collection of short anecdotes by those who served and those who were served by them, the booklet most ably brings home the selfless devotion to providing some respite from the rigours of the war in Burma." (Indian Military Historical Society)

"a touching account of the WAS(B)s contribution to the war effort." (Banbury Guardian)

"Well-researched, this book includes formal information: scales of clothing; rates of pay; regulations for canteens operating in forward areas and much else. The photographs are excellent and well-produced, unusually so for a comparatively inexpensive publication. This book deserves to be read."
(Dekho)



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Copies cost £6 incl. p & p
Please make cheques payable to S.Jaffe
Send orders or enquiries to Chinthe Women c/o Rockhill Cottage, Chipping Norton, Oxfordshire OX7 5BA.
Contact us at

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