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1768722 Sgt Evans V.W

The death of Sgt Evans is recorded on the Memorial Window inside the church at Chilton Foliat but his home is known to have been Woodbridge, Suffolk. It seems likely that his family moved to Chilton or Littlecote to work on one of the estates in the area. He was the son of John and Sarah Evans and the husband of Christine Eleanor.

Vernon Evans served with the Royal Artillery in the Burma campaign with 524 Battery of 55 Light Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank unit in the battles around Imphal. In May 1944 heavy fighting had taken place, with the Devonshires suffering losses in the Japanese suicidal attacks in the battles around Imphal. No quarter was given by either side, with the enemy dug into fox holes being killed by the advancing Devonshires. The fox holes led to connecting tunnels and it was usual for the enemy to come out of one hole, throw a grenade into our troops, then go down another hole into the tunnel complex twenty to thirty feet below. In an attempt to combat this, an artillery barrage would be fired into the hills before the infantry went forward, but there was still bloody fighting to capture these hills.

This was where 524 Battalion came to the aid of the infantry, adding close support to their advance. Each allied attack was followed by an enemy counter-attack, again following an artillery barrage. It was at the beginning of one of these artillery barrages on 18 May 1944 that a shell hit the bunker on Water Tower Hill near Shenam, 20 miles from Imphal, killing Brd Benson and Sgt Vernon Evans.

Sgt Evans is buried in the Imphal War Cemetery.

Roger Mason kindly contacted the Virtual Museum (Sep 2013) with the following further detailed information about Sgt Evans:

1768722 Sergeant Vernon Williams Evans, R.A. of B Troop, 524 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery, 55 Light Anti-Aircraft / Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery was detachment commander of No. 1, 40 mm Bofors, gun of this troop.

His regiment was part of 20th Indian Infantry Division and 524 Battery was attached its 100 Brigade for the Battle of Imphal.

On the night of 13/14 March 1944, in the Kabaw Valley, they were among the first IV Corps troops in contact with the Japanese invaders. They then conducted a planned withdrawal in contact with the Japanese through Tamu and Moreh, moving on 1 April 1944 into prepared positions on the Shenam Saddle in the anti-aircraft role in defence of 100 Brigade Area.

Japanese fighters, bombers and reconnaissance aircraft were engaged as they flew over the Shenam Saddle into the Imphal Plain throughout the months of March, April and May 1944.

For the period 8-11 May 1944, B Troop moved to Shuganu to successfully ambush Japanese aircraft going into and returning from raids on Bishenpur.

Throughout the period at Shenam, Japanese medium artillery, 75 mm field guns and 105 mm howitzers shelled the gun positions.

This peaked between 16 and 23 April 1944, when shells fell very close to A6, B2 and B3 detachments, requiring the removal of the B3 detachment off Sapper Hill as the Japanese gunners had registered its position.

On 8 May 1944 a 15cwt truck was badly damaged by shellfire at Battery Headquarters on Patiala Ridge.

Further shelling on 13 May hit the A2 detachment wounding 3 Other Ranks and badly damaging the spare barrel.

On 17 May 1944 on Patiala Ridge, 2 shells fell on Battery Headquarters and one on A Troop Headquarters, both without casualties.

Towards late morning of 18 May 1944 radar operators plotted thee-plus unidentified aircraft at 15,000 feet, 50 miles south-east of Palel heading north west. 'X-Raid No.205' was plotted on the table at 11:25. By 11:35 this plot was changed to six-plus. At 11:40 the aircraft were confirmed as six Kawasaki Ki48s (the Japanese equivalent of the Blenheim) with 35 Nakajima Ki 43s (the Army Zero) in two groups; one of the largest Japanese air raids during the battle.

At 11:50 Sgt Evans was killed with his No 1, Bombardier Robert Martin Benson, by a direct hit on a B1 gun position bunker on Water Tank Hill. Two other ranks were also injured. Unfortunately, it was probably a 105 or possible even 150 mm shell with the Japanese artillery operating in a counter battery role, expecting to find the A.A. gunners manning their guns during the air raid.

Next morning, 07:30 19 May 1944, as planned, 112/28 Light Anti-Aircraft Battery relieved B Troop, 524 Battery with B Troop leaving Shenam at 20:00 that evening after being in continuous contact with the Japanese for over two months.