King's Own Royal Regiment Museum
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The Chindits - 2nd Battalion, King's Own Royal Regiment in Burma, 1944
At the outbreak of the war in September 1939 the 2nd Battalion were operating in Palestine against the Arab Revolt but in August 1940 was moved to Egypt from where, in February 1941, they were sent to Syria and took part in the actions which defeated the Vichy French. From September to December 1941 the 2nd Battalion again saw active service in the besieged harbour city of Tobruk.
In February 1943 the 2nd Battalion moved to Ceylon, and later India, to undergo Jungle Warfare training. At a meeting In December of that year British Prime Minister Churchill and American President Rossevelt agreed that the main war effort should be directed at defeating the Germans by opening a second front, which would be in Normandy, with the conflict in the Far East given a lower priority. As a result the only troops available to fight the Japanese would be those already deployed against them. This therefore meant that the 2nd Battalion would see active service in Burma.
In 1943 the first 'Chindit' campaign took place under the leadership of General Orde Wingate who devised an operation which would place troops well behind enemy front lines and those troops would take on the enemy and harass supplies and lines of communication. The 1943 campaign was repeated in 1944 with the 2nd Battalion King's Own taking part. The battalion was split into two and, between March and July serving as No. 41 and No. 46 Chindit Columns, operated behind enemy lines in arduous conditions and covered more than 1100 miles.
On 9th March 1944 both columns were flown, in gliders which also carried mules and ponies for use in carrying supplies and ammunition through the jungle, from Imphal, India to the airstrip at 'Broadway' south west of Myitkyina in Northern Burma. The animals had had their vocal cords cut to prevent them giving a position away to the enemy.
In late May 1944 both columns were involved in an extremely fierce action inside “Blackpool Block”, a defensive perimeter southwest of Myitkyina after the Japanese had broken through barbed wire, mines and booby traps. The success of General Stilwell in capturing the Japanese airfield at Myitkyina on 17th May resulted in the enemy withdrawing from Blackpool, the 2nd Battalion under Major Heap following the enemy as they withdrew.
In June, despite losses through casualties and disease and having to operate in terrain which included swamps and almost perpendicular mountain-sides, the Battalion was involved in actions against Mogaung which was captured on the 26th of that month.
Shortly after this action a medical inspection passed only 91 men of the Battalion fit for further duty and on 26th July the King's Own Chindits received orders to proceed to Mogaung from where they were transported by jeep to Myitkyina and flown to India. At this time the last of the enemy around Myitkyina was wiped out and the Japanese withdrew from the Imphal plain, across the Chin hills to the River Chindwin, having been totally pushed back from Indian soil.
© 2005 Trustees of the King's Own Royal Regiment Museum