This film is held by the Imperial War Museum (ID: CBA 200).


An interim report on the progress of the Fourteenth Army offensive in Burma.

Description of the logistic problems of the Burmese campaign, caused by mountainous jungle, the Chindwin river and heavy monsoon rainfall. Illustrations of transport by porters, mules, barges and aeroplanes, and of the use of elephants in engineering work. An account of the battle for Kennedy Peak (stock shot compilation) and detailed coverage of the building of the Chindwin Bridge (the largest floating Bailey bridge of the war); mention of the next tasks ahead for the Fourteenth Army. Commentary by an officer from the Burma front.


Remarks: oversimplified - better accounts of all topics in the final report BURMA VICTORY.



The war in Burma was the longest British campaign of World War II, lasting from the invasion of the country by the Japanese in 1941 until the overall surrender by Japan in August 1945. It was also among the most complicated. Burma represented the furthest westward advance of Japanese forces into Britain’s South-East Asian Empire. The British fought in Burma for two main reasons: to prevent any Japanese advance towards neighbouring India; and as part of their campaign to regain captured territories. However, there was in addition a largely American-backed campaign in Burma, the aim of which was to keep the supply route to China open, thus encouraging that nation in its fight against the Japanese.

The British strategy drew in military forces from throughout the Empire. Largely officered by the British, the campaign featured soldiers from the UK, Nepal, Africa and India, as well as from Burma itself. Troops from the sub-continent were predominant. Louis Allen has stated that it was the ‘The Indian Army [who] saw to it that the Empire in Burma was preserved’ (Allen, 1984, 632). He adds that ‘the Indian Army was not serving its own people, nor the interests of the people across whose territory the war was fought’ (Allen, 1984, 634). The people of Burma in fact had divergent interests. Japanese state-building achieved its greatest success here. Ashley Jackson has argued that among the dominant ethnic group, the Burmans, some ‘were actively anti-British and willing to work with the Japanese’ (Jackson, 2006, 386). He counters that other ethnic groups, including the Karens, Chins, Kachines and Nagas, ‘were loyal to the British, or opposed to Japanese or Burman influence, and therefore prepared to support them’ (Jackson, 2006, 386).

The Burmese campaigns faced several difficulties. As well as fighting the Japanese, the troops had to battle against the jungle terrain of the country, its tropical diseases and its harsh weather conditions. The Burmese monsoon season, which lasts from October-March, was initially avoided. However, in the last years of the campaign Allied troops advanced in the heavy downpour. In parts of Burma there is an average rainfall of 200 inches each year (Allen, 1984, 8).

As the war in Burma neared its conclusion, attempts were made to produce a combined British and American film of the campaign. However, the divergent aims of these countries led to the project breaking down. Instead two feature-length histories were made. Both attempted to tell the whole story of the Burmese war, but portrayed it in a partisan manner. The British film, Burma Victory (1945), focussed primarily on the re-conquest of Burma. The American film, Stilwell Road (1945), was centred on the completion of the land supply route to China.

This short film, Report from Burma, was produced by the company New Realm for the British Ministry of Information. It concentrates solely on the British campaign and was shot in 1945 when the Japanese were firmly in retreat. Its main campaign sequences cover the Battle for Kennedy Peak and the bridging of the Chindwin River. In its conclusion the film anticipates the advance on Rangoon, where the final battles were fought and the Japanese surrendered the territory to the British. Reflecting this bias, it was a British audience for whom the film was intended (see MFB, 1945, 64).



Report from Burma provides interesting points of contrast with Burma Victory and Stilwell Road, the two most well-known film documents of the Burma campaign. It is more fragmentary and localised, and it does not offer the broad overview that is provided in the other films. Curiously, however, in some ways it can be said to provide a more rounded picture of Burma and of the battle to recapture it.

Report from Burma is careful to outline its military credentials and its authenticity. An opening title card informs us that the commentary is spoken by Major Frank Owen, and the film then begins with a separate commentator, who informs us that Owen is editor of the 14th Army’s newspaper, SEAC, and that he recorded his commentary in London before returning to the Burma Front. Here, we are informed, ‘he is in daily contact with the serving men’. Nevertheless, the film does not attempt to outline the complicated strategy of the Burmese War. Unlike Burma Victory and Stilwell Road, there is no use of maps to illustrate the separate passages of the campaign; instead there are just two brief summations of the soldiers’ positions and of how well they are doing against the Japanese.

This ‘report’ appears to have been largely determined by the film material that was available. As much screen time is given to the construction work of elephants as there is to the battle for Kennedy Peak. Owen’s commentary, by and large, reflects directly upon what is taking place on screen. Ultimately, the film comes across as a series of snapshots; a feeling that is reinforced by the fact that its background music does not build from scene to scene.

The soldier’s perspective provides differences from Burma Victory and Stilwell Road. The same footage of the monsoon rains can be seen in each of these films, but it is dealt with most stoically here. Owen even concedes that there is one good thing about the rain: ‘it’s warm’. In addition, the film has a different approach to the polyglot nature of the Allied troops. Both Burma Victory and Stilwell Road have set-piece sequences that highlight the many nations who are fighting under one banner. It is Report from Burma, however, that has the most extensive footage of Indian troops operating in the field. Curiously, the nationality of the troops is one of the few visual elements that Owen fails to address directly in his commentary. There are positive aspects to this. The other films both stress the Anglo-American dominated structure of command. This film, in contrast, does not depict any of the military leaders and instead shows Indian soldiers working in self-contained units. On the other hand, Owen’s commentary is reductive. In one segment we see a group of Indian soldiers advance, but he describes this as being ‘the first British wave’. At the close of the film there is a section that features troops of different nationalities. Owen does acknowledge their racial composition here, stating that they are ‘British, Indian and African’; however, in the next sentence their triumphs are described as being ‘the mighty military victories of the British’.

Finally, Report from Burma can be differentiated from the other two films in its portrayal of Burma itself. Burma Victory and Stilwell Road portray Burma as a hostile country. This film, in contrast, shows the army working with the land, animals and people of Burma. We learn that the country’s waterways have been used to ferry goods to the soldiers; here we are shown medium close-ups of the locals who have helped to undertake this task. The elephants of Burma are described as being the soldiers’ ‘friend’ and worth their weight in gold; again, the film features the locals who are helping to harness this aid. Similar attention is paid to the tribes of the Chin hills who have been enlisted to help collect the drops of airborne supplies.

Richard Osborne (July 2009)


Works Cited

Allen, Louis, Burma: The Longest War 1941-5 (London and Melbourne: J. M. Dent & Sons, 1984).

Jackson, Ashley, The British Empire and the Second World War (Hambledon: Continuum, 2006).

‘Report from Burma’, Monthly Film Bulletin, 12:133/144 (1945), 64.




Technical Data

Running Time:
12 minutes
Film Gauge (Format):
1093 ft

Production Credits

Production Countries:
Ministry of Information
commentary spoken
Owen, Frank (Major)
film editor
Cummins, Sylvia K
Production company
New Realm
sound recordist
Burgess, George