On This Day

The Day Myanmar’s Independence Hero Studied Britain’s War Machine

By Wei Yan Aung 16 January 2021

Yangon — On this day in 1947, Myanmars independence architect General Aung San, who was in London to discuss Burmese independence with the then British prime minister, Clement Attlee, visited the British Ministry of Defence, the place he wanted to visit most in the United Kingdom.

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery welcomed and conducted him around the headquarters.

Gen. Aung San, who served as chief of the Burmese army and minister of war, and is considered the father of Myanmars military, had determined to visit the offices that commanded all the military affairs of the British Empire to prepare his defense ministry after independence.

The independence leader asked numerous questions about the structure and command of the British armed forces and Montgomery, who was known for his experiences fighting Germany during World War II, answered all his questions patiently.

“Monty”, then chief of the Imperial General Staff, had already heard about Gen. Aung San from Field Marshal William Slim, who led the 14th Army during the Burma campaign against Japan. 

Gen. Aung San, 31, smiled broadly during his visit before heading for afternoon talks with Attlee at Downing Street.

During his London trip, Gen. Aung San, who said he would retire from politics and take up writing after independence, visited bookshops and met the British writer Maurice Collis, who served as an administrator in colonial Myanmar (then Burma). He also met the political theorist and economist Harold Laski. 

He and Attlee signed an agreement to grant independence in one year. Myanmar gained independence on Jan. 4, 1948. 

Translated from Burmese by Thet Ko Ko

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