Jack Hassell was born in India more than 100 years ago. His service included defending the border between his birth country and Burma, where war hungry Japan had staked a claim.
While brought up initially on the Indian subcontinent, today Jack still exudes a British manner. He lived for a good part of his life in the United Kingdom. Aldershot Garrison, Hampshire was one military base he trained at in preparation for World War II.
Born in Mhow, a town in Madhya Pradesh, Jack was brought up in a small British Garrison, where his father Raymond was stationed acting as a bombardier with the Royal Artillery. His mother, Maude, worked as an ladies maid to an officer and his wife. As a youngster he went to Cardiff to be raised by a grandmother and an aunt.
His mother was worried, having come home to find a snake outside the nursery door.
His grandfather also was an army man, acting as an officer in charge of enlisting men into the Welch Regiment. There are historical items belonging to his grandfather in the Welch Regiment part of the Firing Line Museum in Cardiff.
With the outbreak of World War II Jack was initially involved in UK coastal defence but was soon on the move, this time back to the Indian subcontinent. The troop ship trip was made via South Africa, where Jack and his comrades spent about two months before making their way to India for further training.
The Welch Regiment unit ended up in the Burmese jungle, fighting the Japanese. Jack says the jungle conditions were oppressive.
He was serving as a corporal and remembers combat during the Battle of Kohima, which took place in Assam Province during April to June of 1944. The Japanese were taking on the Allied Forces.
“They drove the British all the way back through Burma right up to where you drop down into India,” he said.
“There was a huge invasion of Burma, and the upper reaches of India. There was a very famous battle, and (or our troops in India) there was a long man-made cement road which went all the way up to where Burma started.”
He also remembers being involved in the Battle of Mandalay, one of the decisive engagements near the end of the Burma campaign.
He had a dice with death when a Japanese howitzer shell detonated near the foxhole he took cover in.
Jack remembers being in hospital, for some time, and suffered from malaria, dysentery hepatitis A and gangrene. He was also shot in the foot though the wound was minor.
After the war he went back into civilian life, got married in 1946 in Penarth to Jean, having known her before he joined the war effort.
Printed with permission from Jack's family.