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Title:WOMEN OF THE WOMEN'S AUXILIARY SERVICE (BURMA) AT SHILLONG [Allocated Title]
Film Number:JFU 150
Other titles:BRITISH ARMY OPERATIONS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA DURING THE SECOND WORLD WAR [Allocated Series Title]
Summary: Women of the Women's Auxiliary Service (Burma), known as WAS(B)s, provide a mobile canteen service to British and Indian troops near Shillong, Assam, India.
Description: WAS(B) women dishing out refreshments to soldiers at a mobile canteen; they wear the sword and shield patch of the 14th Army. The soldiers are from a Scottish regiment. Two WAS(B)s talk with a British corporal. A sign reading 'WAS(B) No. 8'; the sign moves away from camera to reveal the sign is actually painted on the back of a mobile canteen based on a Chevrolet lorry. 'Canteen Services (India)' is painted on the side. A parked mobile canteen; a WAS(B) servicewoman hurries into the driver's seat and drives away. A group of seven WAS(B)s; one is noticeably older than the rest. A covered jeep comes to a halt and the WAS(B) driver gets out. She talks to another WAS(B) standing by a parked canteen lorry. They are joined by two more women. A queue of British troops at a canteen; the man at the front of the queue piles up tins of food. Another man in the queue wears the patch of 36th Division (two overlapping rings) on his bush hat. View from inside the van; an Indian soldier purchases a small item (a bar of chocolate?). A canteen van drives away; it is marked 'Mobile Canteen No. 2. Provided by Barwani State'.
Technical Details: Format: 35mm
Number of items/reels/tapes: 1
Footage: 275 ft; Running time: 4 mins
Notes: The older WAS(B) may be Major Mrs Ninian Taylor, the commander of the Service. The WAS(B) was originally formed shortly before the Japanese invasion for cipher duties. Evacuated from Rangoon by sea, it was reformed in India and served throughout the conflict in south east Asia, sometimes operating within range of enemy artillery. For a 'Forgotten Army' far from home, these women had considerable morale value and at least 24 WAS(B)s were Mentioned in Dispatches.
Shillong was originally a small village when it became a British hill station for the district of Khasi and Jaintia Hills in 1864. It remained an important administrative centre and is now the capital of Meghalaya state (since 1972).
Barwani was a princely state under the British Raj, being nominally ruled by the Rana of Barwani. The state was incorporated into the newly independent India in 1947 as part of the state of Madhya Bharat.
The Imperial War Museum's Sound Archive holds interviews with a number of WAS(B)s. See related items.