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Ballsy

“Government bureaus had departed for upper Burma, Indians of the police and clerical staffs were fleeing, Burmese employees melted into the population. Fires and looting, fifth-column groups and night-roaming marauders took over. All that remained of the civil administration were demolition squads awaiting the Governor-General’s last-minute order to blow up the docks. On the last night at Government House, the Governor, Sir Reginald Dorman-Smith, and a residue of his staff dined in lonely finality with only the cook and the butler left out of 110 servants. The halls were emptied of the tall Chaprassis, Indian attendants in long white coats and scarlet and gold waistcoats whose only duty was to stand and wait as silent statues of imperial rule. After dinner the Governor and his aide and one or two others played billiards under the portraits of past Governors of Burma. The portraits’ clam, indifferent gaze seemed to irritate the aide, who took up a billiard ball saying, ‘Don’t you think, Sir, that we ought to deny them also to the Japs?’ and let fly. The others joined in, hurling balls wildly into ripping canvas, perhaps in frustration, perhaps in some dim recognition that their rule was passing. ‘It was a massacre,’ the Governor said afterwards, meaning the portraits, but the Empire, too, which had ruled by prestige, was in tatters.” – Barbara Tuchman, Stillwell and the American Experience in China

Published inBarbara TuchmanJoseph StillwellThe Second World War

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