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Sir Jeffrey Hillpig-Smyth and the Burmese Army Trekking Stick

Daniel Lawton

“There is a pirate bar across from the Anodard hotel, where I live in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It’s a strange place and patronized mostly by a coterie of Australians and Englishmen who consume large amounts of white rum from a carafe that resembles a milk bottle.

I was sitting there one evening, eating red curry and drinking a strawberry milkshake, when I noticed an odd collection of cane-like sticks adjacent to the bar. The sign above them said that they were Burmese Army trekking sticks, designed for trekking through the mountains and “issued to Burmese Army rangers stationed on the north east frontier.”

The sticks, which are 36 inches long and constructed from baby bamboo, were apparently invented by a certain Sir. Jeffrey Hillpig-Symth, who was stationed in the British Special Forces in Mandalay around 1941. Above the sticks was a pamphlet with Hillpig-Symth’s biography and rather then attempting to synthesize its incredible weirdness, I will reproduce it verbatim below.

I promise I did not make this up.

A Brief Sketch of Sir Jeffrey Hillpig-Smyth

–Born London, 1910.

–As a schoolboy-overweight, few friends, poor student, non-athletic yet polite, called “Hillpiggy” by the staff.

–Sent down from Oxford for indecency, 1930.

–Unsuccessfully stood for parliament as an independent for the small constituency of Looting on the Thames, finished fourth in a field of three, 1934.

–Alcoholic, 1935.

–Published at his own expense an angry and spirited collection of short essays, entitled, Sticks and Stones, 1937.

–Alcoholic again, 1937.

–Published a second collection of short essays entitled, Mudpuddles and Other Outrages, 1938

–Joined British agency ofMilitary Intelligence and Engineering, 1939

–Assigned to British Special Forces, Mandalay, British East India (Burma), 1940

–Recovering from a minor fall, designed the Military Trekking Stick, 1941.

–Disappeared while on a morning mini-trek within the Special Forces compound. A party was organized and diligently combed the 3-acre area for 3 hours to no avail, 1944.

–Queen Elizabeth II knighted Hillpig-Smythe in absentia, for contributions to the British War Protocol, 1953.

–Unofficially, over the years there have been periodic sightings of Hillpiggy in the Burmese jungle. The latest, as recent as the last monsoon, has Hillpiggy on elephant leading a small group of well-disciplined guerrillas near Kuhn Sa’s stronghold at Nam King.

–Further information is available by writing:

Find the Hillpig Society
8/1 Arak Road Soi 7
Chiang Mai, Thailand.

–The reward of 25 Pounds Sterling for information confirming Hillpiggy’s status remains in effect.”