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Major P.C. Arbuthnot

Small Collections Box 2

Born in India and returned aged 17 in about 1920 to be Assistant Manager of a tea estate in Darjeeling; promoted to Manager when he was 20; in 1930s acquired share in Baghdogra Tea Estate and managed this estate between 1945 and his retirement in 1953; with Indian Army in the Middle East 1941-1945.

Two typescript memoirs by Major Arbuthnot. Given by Mrs Arbuthnot.

  1. ‘Persia and Iraq – May 1941 to December 1944’. Major Arbuthnot spent the Second World War with Indian troops engaged in transport and convoy work. He landed in Basra with 500 Force H.Q. Transport Section on the evening of 16 May 1941. He describes operations which took place in Persia during 1941. He was particularly impressed by the way Indian troops stood up to the cold. Most of the ordinary Indian soldiers had never driven anything faster than bullock carts. However within a very short while they were handling their vehicles with great skill.In March 1942 Arbuthnot joined 50 (Kolhapur) G.P.T. Company and he was with this Company for the remainder of the period covered by the memoir. Arbuthnot gives examples of the wide range of convoy work undertaken. The Indian troops became excellent mechanics and for more than two years no vehicle had to be taken to a main workshop for repairs. There was no serious accident and some 200 vehicles covered nearly 10 million miles. 5ff.
  2. ‘Overland from Iraq to India in 1945’. Major Arbuthnot explains that the scheme for sending nearly 3,000 Indian troops home by land from Iraq in March 1945 was drawn up because of shipping shortages. 250 Dodge 3-tonners were needed urgently in Burma and it was not possible to send these by sea.Arbuthnot graphically describes the route taken. The first two days took the Company through some of the hottest parts of Persia at one point passing near the Anglo-Persian oil refinery at Abadan. After a further day’s journey the road which was taking them to the north climbed higher and higher. The cold that night was the most intense that Arbuthnot could ever remember. Eventually Sultanabad was reached, then Isphahan, Ardakhan, Yez and Kerman. Now the Company had to cross the much vaunted Kerman Desert.In view of the high temperatures, they had been advised to travel by night but this was hardly practicable because of the risk of vehicles getting stuck in loose sand. As it happened it was abnormally cool the day they had to cross. Nonetheless the afternoon heat was unbearable and it was a very exhausted convoy which crept out of the Kerman Desert as darkness fell. Shortly Zahidan was reached where the Company rested for two days. Zahidan was only 30 miles from the Indian frontier and a perfect road ran from there to the Bolan Pass and finally to Quetta about 400 miles distant.

    Quetta was the journey’s end but a part of the Company was required to return to Persia with the ‘breakdowns’, water-trucks, ambulances etc. It was intended that Arbuthnot should go back with these men. However when the return party reached Zahidan, he was recalled by telegraph to take up an Indian posting. Arbuthnot’s final journey back was alone with memories of the Indian troops who had been his companions in the Middle East during the war years. 7ff