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Burma

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H G Lambert      a soldier with the Chindits
A Chindit Column with Mules

"Muletrain" A Chindit column moving through Burmese Jungle
photo courtesy of 14 USAAF 27 Troop Carrier Squadron


The 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment were originally held back as a reserve Brigade to relieve, after 90 days,the 3 Brigades that entered Burma first. But pushed into Burma earlier than planned, they found themselves in immediate action, Aberdeen being the subjected to several ultimately abortive incursions by Japanese troops as well as machine gun fire from Japanese Zero aircraft.

The entire Brigade was flown in by April 4th and after a spell on stronghold defence, 47 Column left the security of Aberdeen and headed north east into the jungle to harass the Japanese heading northwards to reinforce their troops in the Henu area. These reinforcements never arrived!

Heading towards Indaw via Setaw, the Column were under strict orders to avoid the use of all jungle tracks in "The Story of the 7th Battalion the Royal Leicestershire regiment", James Wileman reports that this was with mixed success!.  

 ”spending four hours by-passing the village of Katta in order to remain unobserved, it was a bitter blow for the platoon to be met by the headman and his full village council and to be invited to a ceremonial tea and reception. The villagers had been watching for over two hours and had reached the solemn conclusion that these westerners were  either playing a strange sort of game or else were completely  mad"



A Chindit Column

 

 

A Chindit Column

photo courtesy of 14 USAAF 27 Troop Carrier Squadron

 

 

 

 


47 Column then carried out three successful ambushes on Japanese troops at the Tatlwin-Meza road and rail Crossing. The column then headed for "White City", another of Wingate's strongholds, here they were once again the subject to attack from Japanese troops and aircraft. The prime reason for the presence of the Column was to oversee the evacuation of White City from under the noses of the 53rd Division of the Japanese army, who were amassing to launch an all out assault on the stronghold, and which with the onset of the monsoon could no longer be defended.

The column were resupplied by parachuted airdrops, a hazardous operation for those on the ground, but as well as providing necessary supplies, they also boosted morale. There was often a bottle of rum among the supplies!.

On the way, to White City, Harold vividly recalled Japanese troops streaming into their offensive positions,

   "It was dusk, just before we found our bivouac spot, we were at the bottom of a steep slope, and silhouetted against  the skyline we saw hundreds upon hundreds of Japanese soldiers moving along the ridge. They seemed to take an  age to pass and we hardly dared breath. Fortunately the mules remained silent as though they sensed the danger they  were in"

On the night of May 9th, over 30 Dakotas landed at white City and evacuated all the sick and wounded, surplus artillery and ammunition and stores. The Leicesters set about turning White City in to a death trap, with booby traps and mines, and the following morning they "melted" away into the jungle and had the satisfaction of hearing and seeing the major Japanese assault on the now deserted stronghold.


In 1997, Harold wrote some notes about "A Day In The Jungle", for a school project for his granddaughter, Rosie Lambert.

A Day in the Jungle


Woken at dawn by sentries, first job, lace up boots which were kept on in case of night attack. It was very cold just before dawn but quickly warmed up as tropical sun rose.

Lit small fires an brewed tea and breakfast of American "K" rations, (small packets containing tin meat, tin sweet, fruit bar and 5 cigarettes) three packets a day breakfast, lunch evening meal.

Then mules loaded, site made free of rubbish so as to look as if it had not been occupied.

Column moved of in single file to where next ordered, keeping look out for enemy either to attack or avoid depending on orders. Usually marched for I hour then 10 minutes (break) until destination reached if not interrupted by enemy or other hazard.

A suitable site was found for the night, usually away from tracks. The jungle was considered neutral i.e. it concealed us from the enemy and it concealed enemy from us.

Water was a problem both for animals and men, as enemy was also looking for it too, so we were very wary when approaching a water source.

People in front passed down Column news of trouble, all dispersed into the jungle at side of tracks - given map reference to regroup.

The men at the front were changed regularly. At White City we were used as a floating column and took the brunt of it out on patrol.

To view Harold's original document and a questionnaire he filled in at the same time click here.


After leaving White City, 47 Column were to join three other Brigades, in an all out assault on the Japanese 53rd Division.

The route they were to take from White City was through a valley which contained a road and a railway track, leading to a gap in the mountains (the Kyunsalai Pass). 47 Column and and a Nigerian column decided to march there through the jungle to the west of the railway, the Nigerians on the left and the Leicesters on the right.

When the Japanese discovered a deserted White city, a patrol was set of to the west to try to discover where the British troops had gone. It was this patrol that would ambush 47 column two days later.