Comrades say farewell to Bedford Gurkha veteran

A former Gurkha captain who fought in numerous campaigns during the Second World War has been laid to rest at the age of 95.

William ‘Bill’ Jocelyn Smyly was the last veteran in Bedfordshire who took part in the first Chindit operation behind Japanese lines in Burma in 1943.

Captain Smyly funeral

Captain Smyly funeral

He is also believed to have been the last living survivor of both the 1943 and 1944 operations.

Captain Smyly had an illustrious wartime career followed by an eclectic subsequent life.

In 1943 he was a young lieutenant in the 3/2nd Gurkha Rifles and was the animal transport officer in charge of over 50 mules – the only means of carrying heavy loads in the jungle.

When deep behind enemy lines, and after inflicting significant damage to the Japanese communications and supply system, his column was forced to split up into small groups and try to make their way back to India.

Lieutenant Smyly spent three months on his own in the jungle with virtually no food and relying on friendly Burmese in remote villages to give him rest and shelter.

He developed very severe beri beri and was on the point of collapse when he finally made it back to British lines.

In 1944 Captain Smyly was in the 3/6th Gurkha Rifles and took part in some of the heavy close quarter fighting against the Japanese attacking ‘White City’ – a strong Chindit base established astride their lines of communication.

After the war he returned to study at Cambridge, and for a number of years worked as a journalist for the Derby Evening Telegraph, the Daily Mail, and in Hong Kong for the South China Morning Post.

He married his wife Diana in Hong Kong and they had a daughter Eleanor who works in London. He also taught English in Hong Kong, Thailand, China and Saudi Arabia.

A committed Christian Captain Smyly regularly attended St Andrew’s Church, which was packed with his many friends for the funeral service on Monday.

Attendees included the Vice Lord Lieutenant of Bedfordshire, and the county chairman of the Royal British Legion Major Eric Robinson.

Several Japanese, including a representative from the Japanese Embassy, also attended as Captain Smyly had been a strong advocate of reconciliation between the two nations. Several Gurkhas in uniform from 77 Brigade attended the service and formed part of the guard of honour.