Special Force, The 2nd Chindit Expedition 1944

Quadrant Conference 1943

In August 1943 Churchill, Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff met in Quebec at the Quadrant Conference to discuss future Allied strategy. Accompanying Churchill was Wingate. At the conference Wingate presented his plans on how Long Range Penetration brigades would march into Burma to disrupt enemy communications behind their front lines and prepare the way for the main forces to recapture north Burma.

Wingate's proposals won American support and the conference agreed to a second Chindit operation. To show their support the Americans offered to form an American Long Range Penetration Group to be trained and commanded by Wingate (this group later became known as Merrill's Marauders). When the British requested a supply of American light aircrafts for evacuating the wounded, the Americans instead offered to provide an air task force consisting of light bombers, fighters, transport Dakotas, light aircraft and gliders.

Brigades and Regiments

The second Chindit force was given the name Special Force but was also known as 3rd Indian Division, Long Range Penetration Groups, and still better known as Wingate's Chindits. The force was composed of six brigades -

16th Brigade (Brigadier Fergusson)
51st/69th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
2nd Queen's Royal
2nd Leicestershire
45th Reconnaissance Regiment

77th Brigade (Brigadier Calvert)
1st King's (Liverpool) Regiment
1st Lancashire Fusiliers
1st South Staffordshire
3/6th Gurkha Rifles
3/9th Gurkha Rifles

111st Brigade (Brigadier Lentaigne)
2nd King's Own Royal
1st Cameronians
3/4th Gurkha Rifles
4/9th Gurkha Rifles

14th Brigade (Brigadier Brodie)
1st Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire
7th Leicestershire
2nd Black Watch
2nd York and Lancaster

3rd Brigade (Brigadier Gillmore)
6th Nigeria Regiment
7th Nigeria Regiment
12th Nigeria Regiment

23rd Brigade (Brigadier Perowne)
60th Field Regiment, Royal Artillery
2nd Duke of Wellington's
4th Border Regiment
1st Essex Regiment

At Gawilor, India, Special Force received training to prepare them for operating deep behind enemy lines. This training covered jungle marching, blowing up bridges, bivouacking, crossing rivers, receiving air supply drops, laying ambushes, attacking enemy held village, taking evasive action by dispersing into small parties and gathering at a safe rendezvous.

Column Organisation

Each brigade was divided into columns and a headquarters.

A column had about 400 men and typically consisted of,

  • Infantry company of four platoons armed with rifles and light machine guns.
  • Heavy weapons platoon armed with two Vickers machine guns, two 3-inch mortars and anti-tank weapons.
  • Commando platoon for demolitions and setting booby traps.
  • Reconnaissance platoon with a section of Burma Rifles.
  • The column also included RAF, sapper, signaller and medical detachments.

The RAF detachment included an active pilot and was responsible for directing air support and the air evacuation of the wounded

Each column had about 56 mules, much less than the first expedition, as there would be more reliance on air supplies. The mules provided the transport for the column. Ten mules were required to carry the radio equipment, including the batteries, generators and petrol. The remaining mules carried other heavy equipment, weapon and supplies.

Once in Burma the Chindits would attack and cut supply lines and generally harass the rear of the Japanese forces on the frontline facing British, American and Chinese forces. Like the 1st Chindit expedition, the column formations were designed for movement through the jungle. This mobility would be the strength of a Chindit column. A column would emerge from the jungle to blow up a dump or ambush an enemy convoy and then slip away again into the jungle where the enemy would be unable or afraid to follow. When necessary though the columns would reform into battalions and brigades to attack and seize larger targets or to repel attacks from a large enemy force.

Plans and Objectives

The Americans wanted to open a supply route to China from India and this required the capturing of Japanese held north Burma. To achieve this an American led Chinese force commanded by General Stilwell US Army advanced from the north into Burma.

The Chindits objective was to cut the supply lines of the Japanese forces facing British, American and Chinese forces in north Burma but the priority was to cut the communication lines to the forces facing Stilwell's advance.

The orders given to Wingate were

  1. To help the advance of combat troops (Ledo Sector) to the Myitkyina area by drawing off and disorganising the enemy force opposing them and to prevent the reinforcement of these forces.
  2. To create a favourable situation for the Chinese advance westwards across the Salween.
  3. To inflict the maximum confusion, damage, and loss on the enemy forces in Burma.

The initial Chindit move centred on 16th, 77th and 111th Brigades. The other three brigades were held in reserve.

16th Brigade was to march from Ledo to Indaw and then capture Indaw. 77th Brigade was to fly in to Burma, establish a base, and from there attack road, rail and river traffic in the area, while 111th Brigade was also to fly in and then block road and rail links south of Indaw to prevent Japanese reinforcements coming up from Mandalay.