Force 136, created on March 16th 1944 by Special Operation Executive, was a British paramilitary organization set up in India and Ceylon, F136 composed of multi-National Allied military personnal working behind enemy lines. It`s objectives were to gather important information on enemy movement and to organize local underground resistance groups to disrupt enemy communication and supply lines. The role and duties of this unit were similar to previous SOE operation in Europe against the Germans. Canadians would also serve with the famous M.I.9 Unit (British Military intelligence Group 9) which operated in enemy occupied Europe and the Far East helping those behind enemy lines escape and bringing aid to POW`s at the wars end.
S.O.E./Force 136, composed of personnal from Allied / Resistance Forces and included Chinese Canadians who were trained and led by British commanders in India and Ceylon and operated in Burma and Malaya. Another group of Chinese was known as “Operation Oblivion” in the S.O.E. organization, they were stationed in Australia and operated in Sarawak (Area North of Borneo). The Chinese Canadians were recruited for these missions, because they could speak and write Chinese as well as English and could blend in with the local inhabitants who were mostly Chinese origin.
The 1950 movie, “Bridge Over the River Kwai,” gave a good description of what the para-military personnel of Force 136 did. The movie showed not only how the mission was carried out in blowing up the “ bridge” but depicted the type of training these men received and the difficult task they had in hiking through thick jungle, back packing heavy loads of plastic explosives, radio transmitters and food supplies, to reach their target without being detected.
The role of the SOE and its personnel in Force 136 was different from the other organizations like M.I.6. (Secret Intelligence Service.) Many compare SOE with “agents” of MI6 (SIS) when in truth, SOE was a para-military organization developed to aid and assist resistance around the globe, intelligence gathering was also done but not in the same fashion as those plain clothed spy`s ‘agents’ being utilized by MI6, SOE in the Far East did not start serious offensive operations until the Japanese had suffered serious set backs. Once it was determined by SOE ( Who began operating in the Far East before the Japanese onslaught in 1941/42) that Allied Forces could effectively work with the indigeonous resistance available, F136 was created and utilized effectively against the enemy, organizing underground resistance groups to disrupt enemy supply lines carrying out information gathering on enemy movements and eventually mounting small scale offensive operations against the Japanese
Men in Force 136 had their espionage training in various parts in India and Ceylon. They learned how to set-up plastic explosives and how to handle and use detonators and “time pencils” for setting off charges in specific times. They trained how to scout and how best to approach an enemy camp or ammunition dump to sabotage installations without being detected. To keep in contact with headquarters, wireless operation and Morse code training, including coding messages in a Chinese wording code system, were also a part of the course. On completion of this tactical training, which included hand to hand combat and use of light weapons, these men received parachute training on the ground and in the air. This latter phase was required in order to drop them behind enemy lines. However, if the drop off is near shores, landings from submarines were employed.
Members of Force 136 normally operated in groups of 8, with each being a specialist in his party. Besides the No. 1 and No 2. commanders, there were 2 demolition experts, a wireless operator, a coder/decoder and two Gurkhas scouts. Each man has his own assignment and it was most important that everyone operated as a team, because the success of the operation depended solely on it. It was also important not to get caught by the enemy, as it would mean certain painful death. They have issued 2 “L” pills, when chewed on will kill within seconds ,because this group has this secret “ Q” code that they wanted very much. When parachute out at 700 feet in the dark carrying 50 lb. It could be very dangerous, if you hurt yourself seriously, you will be left behind with your 2 “L” pills
At war`s end in South East Asia, the role and duties of Force 136 were changed. The groups were instructed to control the immediate disengagement of the Japanese army in their respective areas prevent the guerrilla groups from taking revenge on the Japanese surrendering troops, and care for the released Allied prisoners of war until the arrival of Allied forces. Although the men in Force 136 were small in number, their contribution played a big role in the outcome of the war in South East Asia and they were given high recognition by the British and Canadian government at the end of the war.
By Willie Chong ex-F136