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417 Section V, G, Profile WOMEN OFFICERS OF THE BURMA ARMY Reproduced from Maung Maung, “Women Officers of the Burma Army” in The Guardian III, no. 3 (January 1956): 23–27, by permission of Daw Khin Myint, wife of the late Dr Maung Maung. The Burma Army Combat Forces School at Ba Htu Myo in Lauksawk, Southern Shan State, lay quiet and sleepy under a curtain of mountain mists. It was six in the morning, time only for the birds and beasts of the jungle to stir; reasonable men and women slept. Even the soldiers in the long rows of wooden, zinc-roofed barracks were still clinging to the last treasured moments of sleep; soon the morning’s bugle would call, urgent, insistent, unkind, and they would run, hastily dressed, into the cold unsheltered fields where they would unfurl their regimental flag and sleepily pledge anew their steadfast loyalty to state and the peoples. But at that early hour of six, when temperature plunged like the reckless neck-line of a modern fashionable young lady’s blouse, eleven women officers of the Burma Army were having a warm time, running, marching, doing their physical training in the vast open spaces and in the big gymnasium by turns. Dressed in jungle green trousers and army 05G DrMaung.indd 417 1/24/08 5:21:36 PM Reproduced from Dr Maung Maung: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot by Robert H. Taylor (Singapore: Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, 2008). This version was obtained electronically direct from the publisher on condition that copyright is not infringed. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the prior permission of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies. Individual articles are available at 418 DR MAUNG MAUNG: Gentleman, Scholar, Patriot pull-overs, beret capped and their neatly bundled hair tucked back, the officers worked in rhythmic unison through the jerks, the jumps, the bendings, and the swings, and all the exercises which had been carefully planned and designed to remove fat, trim figure, to make limbs supple and muscles active and alert. With Captain Tin Nyun, instructor, Major Ye Gaung, the chief instructor, and Colonel Kyaw Soe, the Commandant of the BACFS and the new Defence Services Academy, I watched the women officers doing their P.T. The men officers looked on, proud of their women students. I, shivering slightly under layers of wool and trying bravely to put up a calm face in the cold, admired. x x x x x A Womens Auxiliary Corps is not a new idea. Women have fought in wars as valiantly us men. The last War proved to doubting men the worth of women. Staff jobs at headquarters, jobs in the field — manning anti-aircraft guns, driving trucks, running the cook-houses and canteens — there were at thousand and one jobs which, men found, women could take on and do well at. Thus, gradually, the women found their way into the armed forces, graduating from clerical positions to staff jobs at the battlefronts, and finally, in the invasion of Europe women officers and other ranks in the Allied forces had penetrated to the very frontlines and, nobody thought that was strange or unbecoming. Not in the British and American forces only, but in the Yugoslav resistance formations, and in the Russian Red Army — to take only a few examples — women served and distinguished themselves even in combat units, often commanding troops of men. Women in uniform have become an accepted feature of the modern army. In Burma, the British tried to raise a hurried corps of women officers and other ranks for clerical duties just before they retreated from Burma. It was a half-hearted attempt, and only a few AngloBurman young women got recruited just in time to join the general rout. When the Burma National Army grew under General Aung San, the thought of a women’s unit occurred to the military planners again, and a small group of women were recruited. The women, however, did not have much opportunity to prove themselves. The planners were still 05G DrMaung.indd 418 1/24/08 5:21:36 PM Women Officers of the Burma Army 419 discussing their dress and uniform and training, when the resistance broke out and the women soldiers went with the men to the Thayet jungle camps. Those women were thorough. They took their thanaka and toilet accessories, and in the jungle they were dainty. Sections of men...


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