The Chindits were perhaps the most controversial of the many elite units raised by the British during the Second World War, partly because of the personality of Orde Wingate, and partly because of the very high rate of casualties they suffered during their two main operations. Moreman's book rather sidesteps the controversy, and instead focuses on the Chindits themselves, looking at the individuals involved – how they were selected, how they were trained, the equipment they used and the tactics they were expected to use.
The Chindits differed from most Special Forces in one significant way. Instead of being made up of volunteers or specially selected individuals, Wingate took entire existing formations and attempted to turn them into a force capable of operating deep behind enemy lines. This partially eliminates one key criticism of Special Forces, that they lower the quality of the rest of the army by attracting the best men, but created a new problem – as Moreman makes clear the Chindit training was so intense that many men fell out with serious injuries or illnesses and had to be replaced by new recruits, so not only did the formation of the Chindits remove a number of units from the front line in India, the need for replacements also weakened those units that remained in the lines.
The final third of the book looks at the two Chindit operations – Longcloth in 1943 and Thursday in 1944, focusing on key elements within each operation. For Operation Longcloth Moreman looks at Major Michael Calvert's No. 3 Column, while for Operation Thursday he looks at the capture of the White City base and the capture and defence of the Blackpool base. As this final section makes clear by the end of Operation Thursday the Chindits were no longer operating as a fast moving elite force, but were instead involved in increasingly conventional warfare – in this case defending against an attack by a regular Japanese division, while other Chindits were involved in attacks on key towns.
By largely ignoring the almost impossible to resolve debate on the true value of the Chindit operations Moreman has given himself the space to focus on the incredible acts of endurance that the Chindits were forced to perform on a regular basis.
Introduction – The Chindits and Orde Wingate
Tactics and Training
Belief and Belonging
Appearance, Equipment and Weaponry
Life on Campaign
In Battle (Operation Longcloth and Operation Thursday)
The Demise of Special Force
Museums, Collections and Further Research.
Author: Tim Moreman