Interest Piece:’The Chindits’ Special Force
Following up from the discussion generated in comments about what to do with casualties in my recent SHTF Combat Casualty Post I am posting a link to an interest piece on Wikipedia about the Chindits, which was an original Special Force raised and used in India/Burma in the Second World War.
There are lots of lessons to be taken from this. It is useful to read the whole article. These were long range penetration patrols in strength behind Japanese lines in the jungle. Very harsh conditions. There is controversy over methods used and it is clear when you read the history that the concept was in evolution and pulled back and forth by political and chain of command pressures.
A couple of quotes from the article:
The force was instead formed into eight columns, each of which was organised as: an infantry rifle company (with nine Bren light machine guns and three 2-inch mortars); a support group with the heavy weapons (four Boys anti-tank rifles, two medium Vickers machine guns and two light anti-aircraft guns); a reconnaissance platoon from the Burma Rifles; and a sabotage group from 142 Commando Company. Small detachments from the Royal Air Force (equipped with radios to call in air support), Royal Corps of Signals and Royal Army Medical Corps were attached to the column headquarters. The heavy weapons, radios, reserve ammunition and rations and other stores were carried on mules, which would also provide an emergency source of food once their loads had been depleted. With 57 mule handlers, each British column numbered 306 men (the Gurhka columns were slightly stronger, with 369 men).
Each man carried more than 72 pounds (33 kg) of equipment, which was proportionally more than the mules carrying the support weapons and other stores. This included a personal weapon, such as the SMLE rifle or Sten Gun, ammunition, grenades, a machete or Gurkha kukri knife, seven days’ rations, groundsheet, change of uniform and other assorted items. Much of this load was carried in an Everest carrier, which was essentially a metal rucksack frame without a pack.
By the end of April, after a three-month mission, the majority of the surviving Chindits had crossed the Chindwin river, having marched between 750–1,000 miles. Of the 3,000 men that had begun the operation, a third (818 men) had been killed, taken prisoner or died of disease, and of the 2,182 men who returned, about 600 were too debilitated from their wounds or disease to return to active service.
Concerning casualties, there was controversy over how the force dealt with them. A couple of quotes from the article:
On many occasions, the Chindits could not take their wounded with them; some were left behind in villages. Wingate had, in fact, issued specific orders to leave behind all wounded, but these orders were not strictly followed.
Finally, Masters had to abandon Blackpool on 25 May, because the men were exhausted after 17 days of continual combat. Nineteen Allied soldiers, who were so badly injured as to be beyond hope of recovery and could not be moved, were shot by the medical orderlies and hidden in heavy stands of bamboo.
Brigadier John Masters reportedly had to have his own wounded killed rather than leave them to be terribly tortured by the Japanese. I believe that in his book “The Road Past Mandalay” he said that he had them killed with morphine but I will need to check that.
Live Hard, Die Free.