POACHER, BURGLAR, GUNMAN
In 1942 the Imperial Japanese forces literally exploded into Burma, chased the British back into India, the Chinese forces back to the province of Yunnan and cut the Vital Burma road that ran from India to China.
Orde Wingate sent an expeditionary force (1st Chindit operation) into Burma in 1943. He proved that his strategy of sending in troops to man "strongholds" deep in the heart of enemy territory, that were supplied entirely by air, would work and if on a large enough scale, could tie down many times their number by operating a hit and run guerrilla war.
N.B Wingate was a Zionist sympathizer and had contact with the Zionist movement when he was in Abyssinia. His methods deployed in "Operation Thursday" and his strategic thinking were taken up by the as then yet to be Israeli military to great effect in the conflicts of 1948, 1967 to date.
The Allied high command decided a plan to recover northern Burma from the Japanese (who controlled all of Burma at this time) and to build a new road from Ledo in India to the "old" Burma road near Myitkyina. The Chinese and American forces, plus tens of thousands of laborers were commanded by the U.S General "Vinegar Joe" Stillwell.
To support General Stillwell‘s push, the Allied High Command decided at the Quebec conference to invade central Burma in an airborne assault using Wingate‘s strategy and planning. 10,000 "Chindits", 1000 mules, artillery and bulldozers would be flown over the 8,000 ft high mountains 100s of miles behind the front lines to specially picked out strongholds that Wingate had reconnoitered in 1943. Wingate‘s own words were "The force was going to be inserted into the guts of the enemy".
It was hoped that the strategy of inserting such a large force into the Indaw area would disrupt the flow of men and supplies to the Ledo "Burma road" construction area and to foul up supplies to the Japanese forces attacking Imphal and Kohima by creating havoc along the Mandalay-Myitkyina railway.
Special Force, commanded by Maj. General Orde Wingate.
Force consisted of six brigades of infantry, the first three were constituted from 70th division, which saw action in the western desert and Tobruk
14th Infantry Brigade: Brig. T. Brodie
2nd Batt "The black watch" R.H.R
2nd York and Lancaster regt.
7th Leicestershire regt.
1st Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire regt.
16th Infantry Brigade: Brig. B.E. Fergusson
2nd Queen‘s Royal regt.
2nd Leicestershire regt.
45th Reconnaissance regt.
51st/69th Field regt. Royal Artillery
23rd Infantry Brigade: Brig. L.E.C. Perowne
1st Essex regt.
2nd Duke of Wellington‘s regt.
4th Border regt.
60th Field regt. Royal Artillery
77th Infantry (Indian) Brigade: Brig. J.M. Calvert
1st Lancashire Fusilers
1st South Staffordshire regt.
1st King‘s regt.
3/6th Gurkha rifles
3/9th Gurkha rifles
111st Infantry (Indian) Brigade: Brig. W.D.A. Lentaigne
2nd King‘s own Royal regt.
3/4th Gurkha rifles
4/9th Gurkha rifles
3rd West African Brigade :- Brig A.H. Gilmore
6th Nigeria regt.
7th Nigeria regt.
12th Nigeria regt.
Each Brigade was allocated one company of British, Indian or West African Engineers plus Medical, Burma Rifles and R.A.F detachments.
Northern combat area command: Brig-General F. Merrill
5307th Composite unit (Provisional), "Merrill‘s Marauders", United States Army. Previously known as code name "Galahad"
"Marauders" composed of 3 battalions. Each battalion was split into two combat teams:
1st Batt. red and white combat teams.
2nd Batt. blue and green combat teams.
3rd Batt. orange and khaki combat teams.
These were the first U.S troops to be committed to the Asian mainland.
The Chindits had 6 months training to get the skills of jungle fighting, were trained to use initiative, to survive behind enemy lines plus to be able to operate with only air support for supplies.
The rigorous training produced what Viceroy Wavell called his "Poacher, Burglar, Gunman", who could live and fight with scant support.
The columns would fly into strongholds that could be held against heavy Japanese attack if need be, there would be no retreat and for the first time the forces would fight and fly through the monsoon.
Every man who took part in the ground operation "Thursday" was classified fitness category A1+. Men who wore glasses found out very close to "H" hour that they wouldn‘t be going in, even a common cold would stop a man from taking part in the ground operation.
4th February 1944.
16th Brigade began its long and difficult march from the Ledo Road into Burma. It marched 450 miles in arduous conditions and opened the jungle airstrip that Wingate christened "ABERDEEN" for that is where his wife resided.
"ABERDEEN" stronghold was constructed 20 miles west of "WHITE CITY" stronghold near Henu.
The Japanese made a double thrust attack from the Mandalay area towards IMPHAL and KOHIMA as a precursor to the invasion of India. The L.R.P (Chindit) airborne phase of "OPERATION THURSDAY" began on the night of 5th-6th of March.
111th Brigade began to land at "CHOWRINGEE", but the landing ground was found to be very vulnerable to ground and air attack, so the rest of the Brigade was re-directed to land at "BROADWAY".
The block at the railway and road crossing, east of Henu, was soon christened "WHITE CITY" because of the amount of parachutes hanging from the trees and covering the surrounding area.
"WHITE CITY" was a "block" across the railway at Henu, about 1 mile north of Mawlu.
"White City" was thoroughly strengthened with materials taken from the nearby railway, steel tracks, sleepers, railway ballast and the like. All the positions from Platoon upward were well dug in, with bombproof dugouts and extensive barbed-wire emplacements.
General Slim wanted the 14th, 3rd and 23rd Brigades for the defense of IMPHAL and KOHIMA, as those were the only jungle-trained troops available. These Brigades were the "CHINDITS" only reserves, so Slim had to follow Allied Command‘s orders for them to fly in.
14th Brigade and 3rd West African Brigade began to fly into "ABERDEEN" in C-47 Dakota transport aircraft. The 2nd Battalion "Black watch" was greeted by Wingate saying, "The first Scottish Battalion to land at a Scottish airport in Burma!".
The "Black Watch" is split into two separate columns:- 42 and 73 (numbers of the 42nd and 73rd Highlanders from which the Royal Highland Regiment was formed)
77th Brigade captured the town of MAWLU (1 mile south of "WHITE CITY"). The town wasn‘t well defended and was taken easily. Japanese documents were discovered which were found to be very useful for the operation objectives.
Wingate‘s American "Mitchell" bomber took him from "ABERDEEN" to IMPHAL for a conference. The aircraft then took off and unaccountably dived at full speed into the forward hills of the Silchar plain, all on board are killed. A signal was sent by Wingate to all L.R.P units the day before his death "One day You‘ll be proud to say I was there!"
Brig. Lentaigne, promoted to Maj-General, then took over the position that Wingate‘s death has left. He was an excellent leader of men but lacked Wingate‘s genius of strategy.
Modifications were then made to Wingate‘s strategic plan that were so rapid and rushed, that the 14th Brigade were to expend a great amount of energy marching and counter marching all over the Indaw area.
Lte.Colonel Green, The Black Watch C.O, was reported to have said at H.Q,
"This ought to confuse the Japs, We don‘t even know where we are going ourselves!"
A Sergeant said,
"We‘re criss crossing so much, I‘m going to march up my own arse!"
"Cocky" Cochrane had his own ideas about the situation,
"Frick this for a game of soldiers!".
But Glen put it in his own words which really summed up the situation,
"We‘ve been here before! I remember havin‘ a shite over there!"
The Indaw valley was nicknamed "Death Valley" by the troops who are constantly criss-crossing the area.
There were so many British troops in the area of Aberdeen that 73 column played hide and seek with what it thought to be Japanese forces. To their embarrassment the Japanese turned out to be a column of Gurkhas who were equally embarrassed to find that the Japanese forces they had been stalking was in fact 73 column.
5th April 1944
5th and 6th April, General Hyashi decided to attack "WHITE CITY" to try and remove the block.
The Japanese "Banzai" attack went terribly wrong when 27 Mustangs (P-51) of the United States No1 Air Commando were directed onto the assembled Japanese troops, as they were in close order in an open jungle area.
5th April Indaw road
Both Columns ambush a convoy on the Indaw road
14th Brigade destroys the main railway bridge over the BONCHAUNG GORGE, as well as several other bridges on the way to INDAW.
42 Column destroyed a fuel dump and called in an air strike as the troops attacked. The men were astounded to hear the pilots "playing tunes" on their guns as they strafed the Japs.
14th Brigade destroyed 21 dumps of Japanese supplies and ammunition, 15000 gallons of precious petrol and cut the railway line in 16 places south of Indaw. Mines and booby-traps were left behind in the area. It greatly damaged the lines of communication to the Japanese 31st Division attacking Kohima and the Japanese 15th Division attacking Imphal.
At the end of April, and the approach of the Monsoon, it was decided that "ABERDEEN" and "WHITE CITY" would be given up and a new block would be established further north closer to General Stillwell‘s forces in the north, who were fighting their way down from the Ledo road.
14th Brigade took over "WHITE CITY" for it‘s evacuation of 77 Brigade
3rd West African Brigade is moved north to a new block named "BLACKPOOL".
The Monsoon breaks
Japanese 53rd Division, Commanded by Lieut. General K. Takeda, reached the INDAW area in May. He assumes command over the remnants of the 24th Independent mixed Brigade, 4th Infantry regiment., 11/29th Battalion and all other units that had been defeated by the "CHINDITS".
Two regiments plus Artillery attacked "WHITE CITY" but the Black Watch side stepped with such a degree of secrecy and agility that the Japanese found nothing but booby-traps and bombs waiting for them, the traps took a high toll.
On finding "WHITE CITY" empty, Takeda quickly moved up the railway and prevented the "BLACKPOOL" block from being successfully put in place. In fighting the 111th Brigade, the Japanese 53rd division took over 500 casualties, but "BLACKPOOL" fell to the siege.
The 3rd West African Brigade was then redirected to the INDAWGY LAKE area to help evacuate the wounded and sick by flying boat.
East of "WHITE CITY" 5th May 1944
This ambush was to be the biggest single action in the Burma Campaign. A force of 200 Black Watch ambush 1200 Japanese to cover the evacuation of the "White City" stronghold.
A Chinese regiment plus "MERRILL‘S MARAUDERS" seized MYITKYINA airfield, but the 12 Chinese divisions on the SALWEEN were inactive, to say the least! (Americans told us later that to get the Chinese to fight, they had to drop their rations on the other side of the Japanese, if they didn‘t fight, they didn‘t eat! I doubt that it was true though), When the Marauders attacked the airfield, General MIZUKAMI was sent to the town of MYITKYINA with a battalion and various units with the order to "Hold the town at all costs!".
The "CHINDITS" are ordered to attack MOGAUNG while Stillwell flew in 30,000 reinforcements to MYITKYINA airfield.
Mizukami, with about 3000 troops, held out for 76 days against odds of 15-1.
77th Brigade attacked around and close to MOGAUNG, stopping any reinforcements from reaching Mizukami who held on desperately in MYITKYINA.
May Kyusunlai Pass
30th & 31st May Noquan Pass
June & July
The commander of the "CHINDITS", General Letaingne, urged 111th Brigade to attack west of the railway.
The 111th, 14th and 3rd West African Brigades were suffering terribly from tick typhus and cerebral malaria because they are in the swamp areas close to Indawgy Lake.
A Medical Officer using mess-tin handles for clamps and an Officers sponge for a swab operates a soldier with appendicitis on. The operation was successful.
The medical officers checked the men and it was reported that in July only 50 men were deemed fit to stay in the jungle for another month due to their physical deterioration.
11th & 12th July
We were in such a dilapidated and exhausted state that it took us 4 days to make a 10-mile march to a rendezvous.
70 Men have died from Typhus so far in the terrible conditions of the swamps at Indawgy Lake. Though all the men were ill and suffering from extreme exhaustion, they still fought a number of small actions. The greatest enemy wasn‘t the Japanese but illness and the weather conditions.
A set of bagpipes was air dropped to the Black Watch. The village of Labu was taken at the point of the bayonet as the Regimental Piper played the Regiment‘s march "Highland Laddie".
The Black Watch attacked Heavily dug in Japanese positions on the tops of the Padiga hills and holds them against counter attacks. This was to be the last action of the Chindit campaign
No. 1 section and another patrol near the station meet the first men of 36th Division advancing from India.
3rd West African Brigade takes over Sahmaw.
14th and 3rd West African Brigades are directed onto the railway town of Taugni, south of Mogaung.