Narrow Escapes of WWII

Narrow Escapes of WWII

Wingate & The Chindits
Episode 3  |  The History Channel  |  June 12, 2017

The major attack was called off for lack of troops. But then Wingate persuaded Wavell to do something utterly reckless - to allow his three thousand strong force to go behind enemy lines without any supporting major offensive. It would take time for the Japanese to catch up with his forces - but catch up they undoubtedly would. So on 24th March Wingate abandoned non-essential equipment, and got rid of any mules that his force didn't need. He then split his force into smaller units to find their way through the Japanese lines and he gave each unit a special means of escape. Some were given dinghies to get across the Irrawaddy river, some the means to build an airstrip and get out by air and some were sent to return through the hills of China. It turned into one of the most imaginative and complex escapes of the war. Of the 3,000 officers and men who went into Burma only 2,160 returned. Of those only 600 were passed fit enough to see further service in the war. But Churchill was impressed. He had Wingate meet the Chiefs of Staff at the Quebec Conference. Churchill then began to realise that a man, like Wingate, who kept a raw onion around his neck for sustenance and who was not too concerned about wandering around naked unannounced was probably not fit for high command. However Wingate was sent back the following year as a Major General to establish bases behind enemy lines in Burma to harass the Japanese. However he was killed in an air accident while leading this campaign. After his death the exercise was only repeated once again; by the French in Vietnam.

The major attack was called off for lack of troops. But then Wingate persuaded Wavell to do something utterly reckless - to allow his three thousand strong force to go behind enemy lines without any supporting major offensive. It would take time for the Japanese to catch up with his forces - but catch up they undoubtedly would. So on 24th March Wingate abandoned non-essential equipment, and got rid of any mules that his force didn't need. He then split his force into smaller units to find their way through the Japanese lines and he gave each unit a special means of escape. Some were given dinghies to get across the Irrawaddy river, some the means to build an airstrip and get out by air and some were sent to return through the hills of China. It turned into one of the most imaginative and complex escapes of the war. Of the 3,000 officers and men who went into Burma only 2,160 returned. Of those only 600 were passed fit enough to see further service in the war. But Churchill was impressed. He had Wingate meet the Chiefs of Staff at the Quebec Conference. Churchill then began to realise that a man, like Wingate, who kept a raw onion around his neck for sustenance and who was not too concerned about wandering around naked unannounced was probably not fit for high command. However Wingate was sent back the following year as a Major General to establish bases behind enemy lines in Burma to harass the Japanese. However he was killed in an air accident while leading this campaign. After his death the exercise was only repeated once again; by the French in Vietnam.

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