Tag Archives: chindits

The Battle for Burma: Roy Conyers Nesbit

Burma

Perhaps the most well-known fact about the war in Burma is that the men who fought in Burma are often regarded as the ‘Forgotten Army’. What I’ve always found most curious about this epitaph – which is quite accurate – is that people are willing to agree with it, but not to actually remedy it. Here Roy Conyers Nesbit makes a strong contribution to giving the Burma campaign the profile that it deserves.

Not content to simply give us a narrative about Burma, Nesbit starts by introducing the issues that underpinned the decline in Ango-Japanese relations, and also the effect that the fall of Singapore had on the war against the Japanese – not only strategic, but also psychological. Burma was definitely a long hard slog – that impression is made lucidly. Along the way we read about Orde Wingate and the Chindits, the Burma Railway and characters such as William Slim, Harold Alexander and Lord Louis Mountbatten. After suffering serious reverses in 1942 and 1943, in 1944 the counter-offensive at Imphal and Kohima turned the tide leading to the liberation of Burma shortly before Victory over Japan.

A page from Battle for Burma

This book is most timely, as I have recently been researching the men from Portsmouth who fought and died in Burma – including a member of the Chindits, men who are buried at Imphal and Kohima, and men who died whilst working on the Burma Railway. Having read Battle or Burma, I can already visualise what those brave men must have been through.

Accompanied by over 200 original black and white photographs, and contemporary maps, this is a first class book indeed and a must-read for any military history enthusiast. This is already a contender for my ‘military history book of the year’. Not bad at all for a book released on 7 January!

The Battle for Burma is published by Pen and Sword

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Filed under Army, Book of the Week, far east, World War Two

Lance Corporal George Sullivan – the Portsmouth Chindit

A Chindit Mule Train moving through the Jungle

A Chindit Mule Train moving through the Jungle

Lance Corporal George Sullivan, 23 and from Cosham, died in Burma on 1 August 1943. He is buried in Rangoon War Cemetery in what is now known as Myanmar.

A member of the 13th Battalion of the Kings Regiment – a Regiment that normally recruited from the Liverpool area – he served on the first Chindit expedition, Operation Longcloth.

The Chindit Operations were the brainchild of Brigadier Orde Wingate, who had trialed forms of long range penetration warfare in East Africa. In Burma, he was given the 77th Indian Brigade to train as a force to fight behind Japanese lines. They were trained to be supplied by stores dropped by parachute, and to use a minimum of heavy equipment. The force was structured into a number of columns, instead of the usual Battalions.

Operation Longcloth was originally to have been part of a wider campaign in Burma. Despite the wider offensive being cancelled, Wingate was persuaded to take his men into the jungle anyway. Beginning their march into Burma on 8 February 1943, on 13 February they crossed the Chindwin River. They stayed in the Jungle until late March, when Wingate decided to withdraw. They had been fighting the Japanese continually, and had often had to leave their wounded behind. Much of their time was spent clearing paths through the dense jungle with kukris and machetes.

Of the 3,000 men who set off on the first Chindit expedition, 818 died. Those that returned had covered between 1,000 and 1,500 miles. Of those that returned only 600 were fit for further military service. It took many months for some of the survivors to return to British lines. Despite these huge losses, the principle of deep penetration warfare in the Jungle had been proven, and a much larger expedition was approved for 1944.

It is unclear how Lance Corporal Sullivan died. We know that he was a Prisoner of the Japanese, although POW records give no indication of when or where he was captured. However he met his fate, Lance Corporal Sullivan was part of one of the most legendary British units of the Second World War, and had taken part in a significant feat of arms.

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Filed under Army, portsmouth heroes, World War Two