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Air Operation Over Burma Wing Commander Roger Henry Tupper, RCAF
At the outbreak of war in the Pacific, Burma was under British rule. The Burmese were seeking independence from Britain but progress had been slow. Many Burmese were loyal to the British but others viewed a Japanese invasion as a step toward independence. The Japanese began an advance into Burma in January 1942 and soon the British were forced to withdraw. A small village in the northern territory of the country was, for the most part, away from the battles. The Japanese patrolled the area; however, life went on as usual until the summer of 1943. When the British ground forces turned to the offensive, their effort took the form of a long-range penetration raid into northern Burma by Wingate's Chindits. The Chindits, known officially as the Long Range Penetration Groups, were special operations units of the British and Indian armies which saw action in 1943 and 1944, during the Burma Campaign of World War II. The creation of British Army Brigadier Orde Charles Wingate, the Chindits, were formed for raiding operations against the Imperial Japanese Army, especially long-range penetration: attacking Japanese troops, facilities and lines of communication, deep behind Japanese lines. Wingate's men were supplied by air drops from Douglas Dakotas of No. 31 Squadron RAF. There were at least seven Canadians in its aircrew ranks. Roger Henry Tupper of Nova Scotia was one of the RCAF pilots who flew supplies to the Chindits during their Burma campaign. Roger Tupper enlisted in the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1940 and having completed training in Canada was posted to the United Kingdom where he was assigned to a bomber squadron. He flew various sorties over Europe from air bases at Norfolk and Biggin Hill, Kent. Shot down over France during one air operation, he walked through to Spain with the help of the underground and was flown to England. He reached the rank of Wing Commander. As was the practice, once an airman had carried out a certain number of air operations. they were taken off active duties. Wing Commander Tupper returned to Canada at that time. He was then approached to join the Pacific war against Japan and was posted to India to fly support for the Burma campaign and the “Wyngates Chindits". He was a long way from home in Nova Scotia as he flew the aircraft over the jungles of Burma to drop supplies. Some Burmese villagers were hiding from the Japanese when they saw billowing smoke and watched as a plane came down believing the chances were slim there would be any survivors Somehow Tupper survived as the plane crashed through the thick trees into a small clearing quite unbelievable in the northern jungles of Burma. He blacked out as he felt the blood on his forehead. When villagers found him they thought he was dead as they pulled him from the wreckage. The villagers had to hide him as Japanese soldiers were moving in quickly. They carried him to their village where he slowly regained his strength only to discover that he was behind enemy lines with little hope of escape on my own. The villagers convinced him of the danger and that it was possible to protect him if the Japanese came to the village. He was there for several months, during which he contracted malaria. He was rescued eventually by allied troops, passed through enemy lines and returned to his base. He would attribute his survival to brave Burmese. Prior to being shot down over Burma he met and became engaged, while on leave in Ceylon, to a girl serving with the Women's Royal Naval Service based in Colombo at the time. After his rescue from the Burmese jungle, he was eventually reunited with her and they married and returned to England where their first child, a son, was born in December 1945. They returned to live in Canada after the war. Roger Tupper was born on February 10, 1920 in Milton, Queens Co., Nova Scotia. He died on November 21, 1989 and is buried in the Milton cemetery., Sources: Roger Tupper, son of Wing Commander Tupper Christine Tupper, daughter of Wing Commander Tupper
The Wartime Heritage Association presented portions of this article in “Echoes of the Forties - Songs and Stories of a Wartime Generation” in its Nova Scotia performance tour during September, October, and November of 2007.