Old Comrades Association


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Chindt Rally 1948

Jungle Wallah 1952
Association History

This article has been kindly provided by Michael E Williams (Captain- Retired
2nd Bn King's Own Royal Regiment)
The History of the Chindits Old Comrades Association 1947 to 1997  

The three services all have well established organisations to provide facilities required by ex-service men and women, namely to foster friendships made whilst serving and to maintain an efficient welfare organisation to assist those in need. However, many ex-service organisations have been formed, over the years, that relate only to a campaign, or a ship, regardless of the arm of Service its members were badged to.  In most cases these organisations are recognised by the Charity Commissioners, for tax exemption on investments, if run in an efficient and acceptable manner. All these types of Association ceasing to exist when the membership dies out. Such an organisation applies to the Chindit Association.

After the last war, in 1947, a group of Chindit Officers met in London and decided that there was a need for such an organisation. They formed themselves into an unofficial National Committee and they decided on the following.

It was realised that the Chindit Forces were very much an international body consisting of British Infantry, Gurkha, West Africans, Burmese, Chinese with attached personnel from India, RAF, RAAF, RCAF, RNZAF and countless individuals from other formations. The main air support being furnished by 1st Air Commando – USAAF. Chindit ex-service personnel would therefore be scattered all over the World, but is was felt that the UK should take the lead in forming such an Association.

It was agreed that the organisation should be formally called ‘The Chindits Old Comrades Association’ and that local branches should be formed in the UK, in the traditional manner, answering to a National Committee of members elected from all Branches.

To establish these branches it was felt that various senior officers, who lived in these areas, should be approached to sponsor this. This was successful and although the initial members mostly came form the County regiments in question, those from other Arms and Corps soon joined, once the Branches received publicity through the local media.

The main areas which started branches were in the North West, the Midlands, the South West, a few in the North East and in the London area. The Liverpool Branch, which covered the North West, was very prominent in the initial period, the King’s Regiment having served in the 1943 and 1944 Campaigns.

To also assist with the promotion of the Association Mrs Lorna Wingate, our General’s widow, was asked to become a Patron and also Lord Mountbatten. Well known Chindit Senior officers were asked to fill the positions of National President and Vice Presidents.

All the Branches were given a basic brief on how they should operate and that they would have to be self supporting financially.

Needless to say there was a tremendous enthusiasm to join and for the first fifteen years, or so, membership grew to over 1,000 which included quite a number who lived overseas.

Branches continued to operate, in their areas, with various degrees of success, their annual programmes being similar. An Annual function embracing their AGM, a dinner and perhaps a fund raising event. However, some branches were not able to keep up this annual pattern and their members drifted away and applied to join, what had become to be known as the Midland Branch. This was run very much on traditional lines and being in the Midlands was easy to attend functions. Originally it had been the Wolverhampton Branch which was, initially, well supported by ex-members of the 1st South Staffords who had taken part in the 1944 Campaign. Furthermore, it should be explained that the Territorial Army in this County became of great help to the Association, as, indeed, it is today. This was probably due to the fact that the founder of the Branch was also CO of the local South Stafford TA Battalion and was later to become Chairman of the TA Association, with the responsibility for all Territorial activities in Staffordshire. It should be stated that the Chindit Midland Branch Committee consisted of some very able and active members who had the time to carry out their various responsibilities and this was very much reflected in the state of the finances of the Branch.

During this time, guidance from the National Committee began to falter due to family and business commitments and consequently much momentum of the original objectives were lost, in this rather vital area. This was partly offset by the Midland Branch who began to participate in the National events, but without a proper mandate.

Meanwhile it should be explained that our Patron, Lord Mountbatten, was very much concerned and aware of the situation and things came to a head when the Midland Branch was making arrangements to celebrate their 21st Anniversary as a branch. Their President took the initiative and invited our National Patron as Guest of Honour, which he duly accepted. This event was to be a celebratory dinner and in view of the standing of the principal guest, it was decide to invite all the remaining Chindit Branch chairman and representatives of all the organisations that had assisted the branch, over the years, which included principal members of the Staffordshire TA Association.

An appropriate date of the 5th March in 1969 was chosen and 282 sat down to dinner at a hotel in the Midlands.

Lord Mountbatten proposed the Toast to the Branch and whilst speaking he put forward his suggestions for the future of the Chindit Association. He stated that the Association was not big enough in numbers to maintain a national network of branches, such as the now well established Burma Star Association. This was due to the fact that the qualification for membership was to have been awarded the Burma Star Medal which embraced everybody who had served in that theatre of war, whereas the Chindit membership was drawn from an elite force of some 20,000 men of whom only some 12,000 had survived.

Some 800 of the survivors had joined the Association but many of them lived overseas and were not available to take part in the administration of Association affairs, so vital to its success. Mountbatten therefore proposed that all branches be dissolved and a new National organisation be established with a Committee made up from the ex-chairmen of former branches. He went on to ask all branch chairmen present to accept his proposition and co-operate accordingly.

The next day there was a general meeting and its was agreed that Mountbatten’s proposals would be accepted. It was also decided that as there was a thriving working committee of the Midland Branch, that this should be kept as a basis to form the new National Committee. It was also agreed that a new National HQ should be established in the Midlands in view of the co-operation received from the Territorial Army. It was also felt that the new national address of headquarters should be in a building of standing as opposed to the private addresses of individuals. All this did not happen immediately but was a long term policy to be pursued by the new National Committee.

There followed some two years of administration in centralising a new national nominal roll of the Association and also the finances.

A new National President and Chairman were elected and it was decided to activate those members of the 1st Air Commando USAAF who had served with us in Burma. Needless to say they had by now formed their own ex-service Association, which operated on similar lines to ourselves. Members of our newly formed national organisation began to attend 1st Air Commando Association functions, in the USA, at their own expenses and their members began to attend ours in the UK. It should be stated that there had been occasions in the past when some members of 1st Air Commando had attended functions in London, but this had been at a personal private level and was not sponsored by the Chindit Association, but it all helped in establishing our Association internationally.

It was agreed that all members of 1st Air Commando were eligible, automatically, to join our Association, if they so wished, and many have done so and are on our mailing list and kept informed our activities. Hardly any Annual reunion has taken place, on both sides of the Atlantic, without members of our respective Associations being present and many personal and private friendships have grown from this, over the years.

It was about this time, in the re-organisation of our Association, that the TA began to play its part and the first major step was to agree that we could use the largest and most recently purpose built TA Centre in the Midlands. This was opened in 1954 was named ‘Wolseley House’, after the famous General of the last century.

There were facilities for an infantry Battalion Headquarters and its Headquarter Company and also a Royal Artillery Battery and all supporting arms. It was a TA showpiece in the Midlands, as it is today, and it was agreed that we could use it as our National Headquarters, as it is today. Further co-operation came from the Units stationed there, over the years. Members of the permanent staff volunteered, in their spare time, to help with Chindit administration. Today some four members of the staff are involved in Chindit matters which covers secretarial work, accounts, keeping of archives, monitoring telephone calls and maintaining the members mailing list. Many of these have been made Honorary Members of the Association for their diligence and have vowed to assist with welfare matters as long as required to so.  Other advantages we have enjoyed is a room to hold our National Committee meetings and many have had hospitality extended to them from the various messes in the TA Centre.

Over the past years the Association has been involved in many major developments, in particular the appointment of Patrons. As already stated Mrs Lorna Wingate, together with Lord Mounbatten, sponsored our early days with the request from Mrs Wingate that her son might succeed her at an appropriate time. This he did in 1969. Following his father, he was a Lieutenant in the Royal Horse Artillery and he was indeed welcomed by all of us and has fulfilled his role magnificently over the years.

The appointment of Prince Charles as a Royal Patron was brought about by the appalling tragedy of Lord Mountbatten’s death and the Prince of Wales accepted the appointment because of his close association with his great uncle, and indeed has become very close to us.

Amongst the events to be remembered was the dedication of the new Chindit National Standard that was produced by the Association on its re-organisation. This was held in the Midlands in 1972 at Lichfield Cathedral with our own Association Padre, Colonel The Late Reverend A.E. Noble MC MA, in attendance.

In 1984 we commemorated our 40th Anniversary of the 1944 Campaign with a parade in the presence of Prince Charles and more recently we had another parade, followed by a reception, to commemorate our 50th Anniversary of our last campaign in 1944, also in the presence of His Royal Highness.

In 1995 over 50 Chindits paraded in London, on 19th August, to commemorate the end of the war in Burma and we had extremely good media coverage.

Leaving a permanent mark for posterity was the unveiling of the Chindit Memorial in 1990 by HRH The Duke of Edinburgh on the Thames Embankment, adjacent to the Ministry of Defence Building in Whitehall. The idea was initially discussed by Lord Mountbatten and the President of the Wolverhampton Branch in 1969. This idea was kept alive by our Patron, Orde Wingate, until the time seemed right for taking action. Under his Chairmanship sufficient money was raised to erect the monument, which is now attended each year by a party of Chindits on Remembrance Sunday.

With a final word about the future it should stated that the National Committee have always been aware that appropriate steps should be taken about this and the following has been arranged.

Our Patron, Colonel O.J. Wingate, was born after his father’s death, in 1944 and therefore, at the time of writing these words, he is 52 years old. He was approached some years ago and asked if he would become Chairman of our Trustees, which he willingly accepted. It was then suggested that he recommend to the National Committee suitable retired officers, of his own generation, whom he could vouch for, to become co-Trustees. The idea being that a younger generation be established to look after matters, when perhaps we were unable to do these things for ourselves. We now have five very able Trustees, of the age groups in question, of which one is a solicitor, another an accountant with the others experienced in banking and commercial business. Our current Chairman of the Association is also a member of the Board of Trustees, with the secretary of the Association acting as Secretary to the Trustees.

A few years ago all Chindit members were asked to consider what should be done with our assets, when the time came, in other words make a form of Will to guide our Trustees and the following has been agreed.

That our archives, which are divided into two parts, i.e.

Actual Campaign items, should go to the Imperial War Museum for posterity of which the majority are now there, with an arrangement to take in, annually, any items subsequently accumulated.

The Association archives and files to be dispersed at the discretion of the Trustees.

Any Chindits funds that are left for the Trustees to disperse to an appropriate Charity or, if the amount is large enough to be kept as a ‘Chindit Trust’ to support youth activities of a character building nature. In this way the name Chindit would be perpetuated.

Disposal of the Chindit Standard and other items of regalia, again to be left to the discretion of the Trustees.

As already explained, the members of the TA permanent staff who have volunteered to take on essential administration of the Association are already in close liaison with the Chairman of Trustees and his colleagues which will mean that the affairs of the Association are in safe hands when the last member passes on.