This story flows like a letter written by a soldier to
his family back home. The opening paragraphs set the stage…five months
of training in India, a special force penetrating deep behind enemy lines,
a strike at the Japanese “in the gut.” I found myself reading as a teacher…these
are the details that make history come alive, become more than distant
times and places. A student seeing WWII through the eyes of a foot soldier
would see truth…blood and mud and loneliness. He would also see heroism
and, strangely enough, comedy.
The story of war is universal in its treatment of battles, charges and countercharges, wounds and death. What is new about CHINDIT is that it puts a man in the thick of things even though he’s never been there. The author becomes his father, feeling every degree of jungle heat, every sting from a nest of red ants, every grenade that rips into a leg, that explodes a buddy. He has dreams of his wife back home, and awakes to evidence of his loneliness. Behind the reality is the triumph of a man’s spirit, slugging through torrential downpours, ankle deep in mud, subsisting on K-rations and “chuggles”, canteens filled with typhus and cholera made potable by periodic infusions of chemicals. Through bouts of diarrhea and dehydration, many falling victim to jungle rot, the men of CHINDIT march…day after day, night after night, moving deeper into enemy territory. They become men of “the forgotten army” until a memorial is erected forty years later and a son reveals the hidden story.
Amidst the horror of war, Chindits found time to laugh, and they planned the letters they would send home…if only they could… camouflaging stories of jungle horror beneath humorous oddities. All names of mountains and hamlets, rivers and lakes in Burma began with “Bum” as if a psychic comedian had drawn the maps. Dead Japanese soldiers smelled like powdered women. Jungle allies couldn’t distinguish between beasts of burden and food…mules were eaten and men carried the tools of war. Digesting corned beef day after day had a predictable effect on the system, called “liquid in a can.” Japanese sentries liked candy bars. When Chindits found themselves in the middle of an enemy stronghold, with daylight coming, they put chocolate on fence posts until sentries became friendlier.
By the end of a harrowing nine months “the forgotten army” become symbols of patriotism, honor, courage…the lessons any teacher would be proud to introduce in any classroom, anywhere in the world. They illustrate the meaning of old slogans, “The boldest measures are safest”… “Daring exploits hasten the victory”, words posted in tribute to the men who lived history. Most of all, they give this teacher hope that her quest for heroes is not in vain.
This is the first war novel I've read, with the exception
of Clancy, since I was a teenager. Nevertheless,
the book is written brilliantly and carries an exceptional Scottish voice. I can feel its brogue as I turn its pages. It's a "must read" for fans of war novels, raconteurs of Scottish and British bravery, students of history, and lovers of just plain good writing.
Chindit tells about Private William
Cochrane's participation in the WWII, Long
Range Penetration Campaign against the Japanese in Burma during 1944. Much more
than a mere account of movements and actions, or another soldier's account of
his contribution to the victory of the allies, this novel tells it as it was.
Stewart Cochrane involves the reader in his father, Cocky's, experience with his
muckers of A Company, No.1 Platoon, No.1 Section, under Sgt. Rab McCallum.
Cohrane pulls no punches about the appalling conditions and the Private
soldier's lot in the jungle warfare. He involves the reader in the horror and
brutality of war but also in the rough humor of soldiers at war and the
sentiment of a group of men bonded by performing their deadly task under extreme
I recommend Chindit highly to those who appreciate good writing and who enjoy
getting involved in what they're reading. It is not only an accurate account of
events but also a real-life adventure that is hard to put down and leaves a
lasting impression with one who participates in it.
The book CHINDIT - Special Force Burma 1944 captures the absolute essence of active service during the Burma Campaign.
Every veteran of that campaign will immediately identify with the narration
of 'Cocky' and Stewart Cochrane, especially in the chapters that describe
the jungle warfare action and the fear of danger behind every tree, bush
or in the undergrowth.
Reading, you still hold that breath that could lead to your position being revealed.
The almost silly conversations at times and the laughing at the most feeble of jokes were how it really was and all done in an attempt to detract from the imminent risk that the next moment could be your last.
More importantly for our children and their children, here is an answer to "What did you do in the war Granddad?" They will read this book and know that their family played a vital part in the history of war and peace.
'Chindit' is a privilege to read and an even greater privilege to offer this review.
Author of "Off the
record - The life and letters of a Black Watch Officer"
David Rose was Officer Commanding 42 Column Black Watch "Chindits" 1944, Commanded the Black Watch in the Hook, Korea 1952, and the Mau-Mau rising in Kenya
“Cocky” Cochrane’s story has been recorded by his son and published via the Internet. The stories of most private soldiers die with them, so this is a valuable record on that score alone. When a campaign is over; regiments are usually disbanded and after some leave, men get on with earning their living and looking after their families. It is usually the Officers who have time to reflect and put their stories into history or memoirs.
In our regiment, “Cocky’s” and mine, we have an unusually strong and close relationship between Officers, N.C.O’s and men. We tend to serve in the regiment, The Black Watch, in which our grandfathers, uncles and brothers have served. You are “known” from your very first day, you have something to live up to. If you misbehave, the news is soon passed around at home. These close ties with home, give strength to the morale of men when things get really tough, as you will realize when you read this book.
During the regiment’s long life of more than 250 years, there have been great changes in the life style of Scotland. The Gaelic speaking men of 1780 had to learn English, so they spoke the English of the Kirk School or their Officers, who were mostly gentry.
In the great industrial revolution, when the surplus population of the Highlands and Islands flooded into the new towns like Glasgow, there was great poverty. The clearances replaced crofters with thousands of sheep. Then came the potato famine. Most of our population went to Canada and the United States of America, but many Scottish, both Officers and men, became mercenary soldiers or sailors. The British Empire grew, and there was always a need for more men to keep the peace, both in the Navy and the Army. Some Officers and men served in the forces of foreign countries like Russia, France and Sweden. Fighting was in our blood and British soldiers were highly respected in all parts of the World and gained a great reputation for good discipline, which was rare amongst Continental Armies.
We are not “killers” by nature and we very quickly make friends with the enemy, once the business-in-hand is over. “Cocky” Cochrane’s barrack room language may be a problem for some people. This intimate language, between close friends, does not give offence, in fact it is a kind of short-hand used to show that you are accepted as “One of us”. It is not very attractive to outsiders and perhaps with better education it will be moderated, but I fear it will never die among our men. It just isn’t right to talk “posh”, the King’s English.
It gives me great pleasure to write this short tribute to “Cocky” Cochrane and his stalwart “Muckers”. I was very sorry to leave them when I was wounded in the earlier part of the campaign. I stayed on in Command of 42 Column for about two weeks, but eventually my wounds became so septic that I had to fly out.
The Chindit campaign. Malaria, terror and humour.
At last a book about the British campaign in Burma behind Japanese lines, written by one of the front line Chindits.
The book brought back memories of when my father was a Chindit, graphically describing the conditions and the terror of being in such an inhospitable country.
A fitting tribute to the little known
Chindit campaign and the Black Watchs' involvement
Superb! Gritty! Unbelievable that it is a true story
This book reads more like an adventure story than a biography...Brilliant!
IT WOULD MAKE A GREAT FILM!!!!!