In the summer of 1942 Wilson took part in operations to assist people who were fleeing from the Japanese invasion of Burma. He was sent to help refugees who had chosen to attempt the most dangerous of the routes between Burma and India, the 8000-foot Chaukan Pass.
The journey was fraught with danger, and by the middle of June a group had become stranded by rising floodwaters on an island in the middle of the dangerous Dapha River. Captain Wilson was sent to join Squadron Leader Gyles Mackrell, who was using elephants to rescue refugees.
Wilson, with 60 men, joined Mackrell and his elephants on 17 June. Mackrell was ill with malaria at this time, and Wilson supplied him with aspirin and quinine.On 21 June, Wilson and Mackrell managed to organise the elephant convoy to cross to the island and rescue eight of the trapped men. The grateful refugees presented Wilson with this cigarette case. It is inscribed – To Captain J P Wilson in gratitude for having saved our lives, Dapha river, 21st June 1942.