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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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