Operation Longcloth, the first of Ord Wingate's long-range Chindit operations, was the first air-supported long-range penetration mission to be carried out by the British, and provided a major morale boost after the disasters of 1942.
This examination of the operation focuses on the second part of the mission, after Wingate ordered his columns to disperse and attempt to make their own way back to safety (at least partly because there is more material to cover here as each column split into several parties, each of which had their own experiences). Much of the text is thus a story of the struggle against the jungle rather than against the Japanese, This phase of the operation saw the Chindits learn some of the most valuable lessons of Longcloth, including the possibility of using very light aircraft to evacuate casualties from deep in the jungle.
The participants in this first Chindit operation emerged from it with mixed views about Wingate. Some of the more hostile opinions were based on erroneous understandings of events in different columns - one hostile witness criticised him for abandoning one member of his party close to the Chindwin river and safety, even though Wingate waited in the same location for 48 hours to give him a chance to recover! Other criticisms clearly have the benefit of hindsight - this was the first air-supplies long-range penetration mission of its type, and so Wingate had no prior experience to draw on. Many of the mistakes made in 1943 were corrected for the 1944 expedition, showing that Wingate was willing to learn from his experiences.
Although the first Chindit operation was very costly and ended prematurely, it did prove that long-range penetration was possible in the jungle, and led to the heavy use of air-supply in Burma in 1945. This detailed account of the 1943 operation reveals the human coast behind those successes.
Part 1 - Operation LONGCLOTH
1 - Declaration of War
2 - A New Way of Fighting
3 - Assembling the Circus
4 - First Across the River
5 - Across the Threshold of Battle
6 - The First Casualties
7 - Attacking the Railway
Part 2 - March or Die
8 - A River Too Far
9 - Disperse - Get Back to India!
10 - A Long Way from Home - 1 Column
11 - First Man Home - 3 Column
12 - Nightmare at the River - 5 Column
13 - Long Walk to China - 7 Column
14 - Plane Land Here Now - 8 Column
15 - A Near Run Thing - Brigade Headquarters
Author: Philip Chinnery
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military