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