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Major Alison Dorothy MacLaren and the Mobile Canteen

1 September 2023

The 2nd Battallion KOSB was sent to Burma after its invasion in 1941 and Alison MacLaren was keen to volunteer with the Women’s Auxiliary Service (Burma). This small group of women became indispensable as they developed mobile canteens to take much needed supplies to fighting troops wherever and whenever necessary. Major MacLaren had three other women working under her as they dealt with daily tyre punctures, mud, monsoons and mosquitos, but she said that they would “paste a smile on their faces in the morning and not take it off until they returned to camp each evening” in order to boost morale.

An article from 1944 tells us that they were catering for soldiers on a stretch of mountain road leading from Kohima to Imphal.

               “A real man’s job” it might be called, but let’s drop that phrase after this war. For the Women’s Auxiliary Services Burma (“Wasbis” to you) are front line soldiers. The ammunition is fudge and home made cakes, their M.T. is a mobile canteen (and one invaluable borrowed Jeep; the troops round here will lend them anything!), their value to the Division’s morale is incalculable.

Major MacLaren’s husband, Lieutenant Colonal Duncan MacLaren, was with the 2nd Battalion KOSB when he was seriously wounded in April 1944. She was able to get to the hospital in time to be with him when he died and, although she was offered the chance to return home, she felt that there was a greater need for her work more than ever and was determined to stay at her post.

Major MacLaren was Mentioned in Dispatches on three separate occasions during her service in Burma and Sumatra. She died in 2003.

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