The Final Battles, The 2nd Chindit Expedition 1944
Lentaigne Takes Command
After Wingate's death command of the Chindits was given to Brigadier Lentaigne, the commander of 111th Brigade.
Late in April it was decided to concentrate the Chindit force further north and closer to rear of the Japanese. There would now be substantial alterations to the operations of the Chindit brigades.
Orders were given to the brigades to abandon their Strongholds and move north to set up a new Stronghold and block near Hopin, 60 miles south of Mogaung. 111th Brigade was to establish this new block, code-named 'Blackpool', with 14th and 77th Brigades acting as mobile columns nearby. Wingate's original plans were now being discarded.
Some of the brigade commanders were against this and suggested instead that the existing Strongholds be kept for a few more weeks then Special Force should be evacuated and another Chindit operation re-launched. Wingate knew from previous experience that troops could only operate in these conditions for a maximum of 90 days and it was his intention to relieve them after this period.
14th and 3rd Brigade abandoned their strongholds as ordered and moved north. 77th Brigade moved towards Mogaung and Myitkyina area to assist Stilwell. After their long march the men in 16th Brigade were now exhausted and the brigade was ordered to withdraw and fly out of Aberdeen.
On 7th May 111th Brigade arrived at the site of the Blackpool stronghold but before they had time to complete their defences the Japanese attacked in force.
Handover to Stilwell
On 17th May General Slim handed over control of the Chindits to General Stilwell U.S. Army.
The role of the Chindits now changed. The Chindits would now be used as normal infantry, even though they were not equipped to and had not been trained to be. They were used to assault strong Japanese positions without the normal armour and artillery support and heavy casualties resulted. (1st Air Commandos was designed only to operate for 90 days and had by now been withdrawn)
Battle of Mogaung
77th Brigade was ordered by Stilwell to capture Mogaung at all costs and on 6th June the brigade, which then had a strength of 2,000 men, started the attack on Mogaung which was known to be held by 4,000 Japanese and strongly fortified. Fierce fighting continued until 27th June when the Japanese were eventually driven out and Mogaung captured at a very high cost. 77th Brigade had suffered 50% casualties. Two Chindits, Capt. Allmand and Rifleman Tulbahadur, won VC's at Mogaung.
Calvert was then ordered by Stilwell to take 77th Brigade to join the battle at Myitkyina. By then 77th Brigade had only 300 fit soldiers out of the original 3,000. To save what was left of the brigade Calvert risked court martial by shutting down his radios and marched out to Kamaing.
The men of 111th Brigade at Blackpool suffered similarly. The Japanese struck back violently against Blackpool with a very strong force. After 20 days of heavy artillery attacks and sustained fighting the airstrip was lost and the perimeter breached. The Japanese brought in anti-aircraft guns and these along with the monsoon rain prevented air supplies.
Short of food and ammunition 111th Brigade had no option but to withdraw from Aberdeen, taking their wounded with them as it had not been possible to evacuate them without the airstrip. The seriously wounded with no hope of survival could not be evacuated, they were mercifully shot rather than left to the Japanese.
The survivours from 111th Brigade made its way to Mokso Sakan where 600 sick and wounded were evacuated by light planes and Sunderland flying-boats landing on Lake Indawgyi.
The choice of location for Blackpool was probably an error, it proved to be too close to the Japanese front line reserves and its artillery.
While 77th Brigade attacked Mogaung, 111th, 14th and 3rd Brigades operated west of Mogaung. 111th was ordered to capture a hill, Point 2171, firmly held by the Japanese. The battle for Point 2171 went on for over two weeks until the order to pull out was given. It was here that Major Blaker won his VC.
By now the Chindits were loosing men at a high rate through exhaustion and illnesses. Mountbatten intervened to arrange for the Chindits to be inspected by doctors. In 111th Brigade just over 100 men were found to be fit for duty. When the medical reports were received, Mountbatten ordered Stilwell to evacuate the sick and wounded immediately and it was agreed that the remaining Chindit brigades would be withdrawn.
The last Chindits left Burma on 27th August 1944. On their return 1 in 2 were admitted to hospital and nearly all required rest and special diet.
Back in India the Chindits received reinforcements and began training for another operation but in February 1945 the Chindits was officially disbanded.
1944 Chindit Casualties
|Brigade||Officers||Other Ranks||Officers||Other Ranks||Officers||Other Ranks|
Source : Medical History of the Second World War: Army Medical Services, Campaigns, Volume 4, HMSO
The majority of the Chindit casualties occurred in the final phase of the campaign when they were under the direct orders of General Stilwell.