<p>
	THE LIFE I NOW LIVE IN<br />
	THE BODY, I LIVE BY FAITH.</p>
A Saving Helmet in the Jungle

THE LIFE I NOW LIVE IN
THE BODY, I LIVE BY FAITH.

GALATIANS 2:20


Chaplain Andrew Gillison was praised in one soldier's war diary as 'the bravest man he ever knew.' Dearly loved by the Gallipoli soldiers for whom he gave his life, Gillison's memorial still sits at Embarkation Pier, just north of Anzac Cove in Gallipoli.

Born in England in 1921, Joe Mullins was a student farmer in Kenya when World War II broke out. Aged 18, he returned to England to attend the Royal Military College at Sandhurst and in 1940 he was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Queen’s Royal Regiment.

In 1942, Joe was posted to India, to the North West Frontier (now Pakistan). After jungle training, he joined the 33rd Brigade of the 7th Indian Division in the Arakan (now Bangladesh). Surrounded by the Japanese invaders, they fought their way out early in 1944.

Promoted to Captain, Joe took over command of B Company in the Arakan. He was 23 years old. The 33rd Brigade was then flown north to Assam to meet the far larger Japanese force advancing through the Naga Hills.


"We advanced over the Naga Hills, amid monsoon downpours, supplied by parachute airdrops by the brave Dakotas. I was promoted to Major in April 1945.

We advanced successfully down through Burma. After taking Prome on the River Irrawaddy, we were sent to cut off the retreating Japanese forces seeking to escape to Thailand. We were badly depleted in numbers, largely due to malaria and dysentery.

The monsoon was full on, and sloshing through the paddy fields, we were beset by foot rot, leeches by day and hungry mosquitoes by night.”


"The monsoon was full on, and sloshing through
the paddy fields, we were beset by foot rot, leeches by 
day and hungry mosquitoes by night."

The war was now in its final two weeks – not that Joe would have known that. 1st Queens was reduced to A and B Companies with only 60 men in each, instead of the usual 120. Still advancing, they occupied the village of Letpanthonbyn.

The plan was to drive out the enemy, dug in behind a mud bank reservoir. Joe’s B Company would put in the final attack, with covering fire from A Company. They reached a clearing, just before the reservoir. It was interspersed with bushy mango trees and a Buddhist temple. They attacked with bayonets fixed, under heavy fire from Japanese automatic weapons. Driven back, they tried to encircle the Japanese from another angle, suffering many casualties.

“Crouching behind the large mango tree, I called up Sergeant Everett and two other seasoned men and shared with them my plan to crawl across A Company’s front and around the temple which afforded some cover… I had no orders except to drive the enemy out. So, as dusk fell, with what ammo and grenades we could muster, we set off. In the tropics, the night falls fast and by the time we had crawled round the temple, it was dark.”


"I had no orders except to drive the enemy
out. So, as dusk fell, with what ammo and grenades 
we could muster, we set off."

Using grenades and bursts of Sten gun fire, the four men leap-frogged from tree to tree, under the bank of the reservoir. Their ammunition was becoming dangerously low. Joe sent his Sergeant to crawl back and get some more ammunition from A Company.

After a very long time, the Sergeant returned with some startling news. No one was there – a full withdrawal had been ordered. "It dawned on us that we four alone were confronting an unknown number of desperate Japanese fighters."

At 2 or 3am, they heard a “terrific commotion”. The Japanese were leaving. To Joe’s relief, and he says an “answer to our prayers”, the Japanese sloshed across the paddy fields away from their position. Joe and his men were alone.

The rest of the Battalion did not know the Japanese had decamped. Anyone approaching the village from their direction would be thought to be the enemy. Joe and his men did not want to be shot up by their own. So they decided to make themselves obvious, walking back to the village street singing army songs, like “Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile...” They were greeted with wide-eyed amazement.


As I began to relax, I suddenly felt my steel helmet weighing a bit heavily. I took it off and felt the top of my head. I was surprised to find a scratch, maybe an inch long. I looked at my helmet. Inside, the foam rubber and leather crown were ripped to bits. I pulled them out, revealing gaping holes and a dent where Japanese bullets had penetrated the steel.

"The bullets had struck the helmet and spun around the inside curve of the steel before exiting on the other side! The bullets had all been miraculously deflected from my head. We lost 25 men in that battle, 25 of our friends. As I gazed at the helmet, it seemed that God was talking to me, ‘Joe, you have no right to be alive. Your only right to live is to give yourself back to Me.’”

Joe was awarded the Military Cross.


"I looked at my helmet. Inside, the foam rubber and leather 
crown were ripped to bits. I pulled them out, revealing gaping
holes and a dent where Japanese bullets had penetrated the steel."
 
JOE MULLINS

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