Chindit Badge

Charles Taylor

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H G Lambert      a soldier with the Chindits

Recollections of 7th Battalion Leicestershire Regiment Chindits.


  CHARLES HENRY TAYLOR
( Usually known as “CHUCK”)
7th Leicesters 47 Column 5260299



Born at Tiddington, Stratford on Avon, March 1922. Left Tiddington School at age 14, and became apprentice bricklayer, with Price Brothers, builders of Stratford on Avon.
In mid 1940 volunteered for “D” (Tiddington) Company, part of 4th (Stratford) Bn, Warwickshire Home Guard. He served along side his father, a WW 1 veteran.
During late 1941 called up into 8th Bn Worcestershire Regt, and allotted Army No 5260299. During his Primary Training he did not see inside any barracks, as they were billeted in civilian houses in the areas of Market Rasen, Woodhall Spa & Cleethorpes. His unit was part of 144 Brigade, and as well as training they were operational, guarding RAF bases and the Lincolnshire coastline. The whole purpose of this Bn was training and providing drafts for overseas. During this period Charles became proficient on the Lee Enfield .303, Sten gun, 2” mortar, grenades, Bren LMG & Vickers MMG, as well as PIAT.


After further training in Devon & Cornwall, early 1943 he joined a convoy sailing from Liverpool, at this time not certain of its final destination. The routine on ship consisting of PT, weapon training, lectures (especially on the medical “dangers” of The East!, and deck sports. Calling on route at West Africa, great play was made of the “Crossing the Line”. All this by a young man who, like so many at that time had hardly left his own county before his call up. Then onto South Africa, where they were greeted by the singing of the famous “Lady in White”. They spent two weeks ashore, during which time several of his comrades were sent on drafts to North Africa, and newcomers joined them. This was the story of Infantrymen in transit at this time, some wearing several cap badges in a very short space of time. Charles spent just four weeks with 1st Bn North Staffords before being posted to 7th Bn Leicestershire Regt. Here he settled in and was promoted Lance Corporal (however he did subsequently “loose” this for some military misdemeanor!). The Bn worked hard on ranges and jungle training. Then came the news in September 1943 that they had been selected for Wingate’s Second Chindit Expedition. There were different terms used for The Chindits, which sometimes cases confusion, they were at times known as 3rd Indian Division, or Special Force. The 7 Bn Leicesters were in 14th Infantry Brigade, commanded by Brigadier Brodie, and also contained 1Bn Beds & Herts, 2 Bn Black Watch, & 2 Bn York & Lancs, these three being Regular Bn’s, so 7 Leicesters were the brigades only war formed unit. Being chosen for the Chindits meant considerable changes to the Bn orbat, the unit was split into two equal “Columns”, one of which was commanded by the CO, and one by the 2i/c. Each column consisted of Column HQ, a Reconnaissance Platoon, which included a section of the Burma Rifles. A Support Platoon equipped with Vickers MMGs and 3” mortars, these platoons were often commanded by RA officers, and contained Gunners, who would be capable to use captured Japanese Artillery. A Commando platoon, all of which were Royal Engineers, equipped with explosives and tools for engineering tasks. The backbone of the Column was a strengthened Rifle Company, with four platoons of four sections, and a flame-thrower section, a total strength of 225 men. The HQ also included among its number a Medical Officer and assistants, R Signals, RAF Liaison Officer and Animal Transport Officer plus a Quartermaster.

Each Column numbered approx 400 men, 75 mules and 12 ponies. The ponies were used to carry casualties and occasionally by officers for recce’s. The mules were to carry, 3” mortars, MMG’s, medical kit, PIAT (anti-tank weapon), flame throwers, radio’s, and hundreds of maps (which only contained sparse information). Rations and personal kit were carried on the man. Chuck Taylor was a “Muleteer”, responsible for Army mule “Queenie”. Back in India the Bn had asked for volunteer’s to look after the mules. Chuck’s father had been employed as a Carter on a local farm, so the young Taylor was used to being around and handling horses. After a discussion with his “mate”, they both put their names forward. The training was arduous and they were led by a Sgt, a former territorial, who had been a farm worker. “Queenie” appears to have been relatively well behaved, while some soldiers had terrible difficulties, and not a few injuries from hoofs and teeth. All of the Army mules were operated on prior to going into the jungle, to remove their voice box’s, lest the loud braying gave the position away. Chuck told me that the mules varied tremendously in size, from little ones not much bigger than an Old English Sheepdog, to monsters almost the size of a shire horse. At night they were hobbled via a back leg in lines, should one get loose pandemonium broke out. The mules by reputation were very, very stubborn, but gradually all the soldiers came to recognise the sterling qualities. With tremendous powers of endurance and they would go on until they dropped. Chuck reports that the saddles to carry the loads were well designed, and his mule carried a Vickers MMG, but became used to that amount and that was what it was “happy” with. He also told me that the cardinal sin for a Muleteer was to put some of his own kit on the mule, this would bring severe punishment. The mule is the product of a male donkey and a female horse, and this entire batch was imported from Australia. They were told that all mules could swim, and was infact true, but they would not always swim when they wanted them to. A great deal of effort was used on some river crossings. All of the men allotted to caring for mules became very fond of their charges, and in turn “most” mules came to know their handlers. When some of the mules later died or were killed their Muleteers were heartbroken.


Chuck with his mule flew by Dakota, during early April 1944 to a prepared landing strip, “Aberdeen”. The Bn activities are well documented, in Ian’s account. But like many Chuck found the jungle a difficult environment to operate in, one of his abiding memories is of being attacked by ants, all this during a Japanese air attack! Chuck had the misfortune to become a casualty, but had to soldier on until he could be flown out. He recuperated back in India, and subsequently flew on several missions in Dakotas, dropping supplies, which was the “lifeline” to those in the jungle.

Chuck's Casualty Note

- Click here to view a very large image -

 

Perhaps the most contentious part of The Chindit Story as related to me by Chuck Taylor was of the punishments that could be meted out for serious military crimes. He told me that the ultimate punishment was to leave a soldier alone in the jungle, but he never knew of such a case. The other extreme punishment was that if a man was found guilty of an offence and the CO deemed it necessary he could be lashed! Chuck told me of one such occurrence, but never told me the man's name. In all of my reading and research of the campaign I have never seen this story in print.
With the 7 Bn withdrawn from the operation the battalion was in a poor state and so they were disbanded and most of the men transferred to the 2nd Bn Leicestershire Regiment.
They were earmarked for Operation "Zipper", the invasion of Malaya (now Malaysia). However before this could take place the Japanese, to the great relief of many had surrendered. The Bn were used on Internal Security duties, and were in constant demand, such was the volatility of the region with discussions about partion going on. This was not any easy time for the forces trying to keep the peace. Chuck reports that the Royal Indian Navy had threatened to mutiny, at Calcutta, however with the arrival of a Royal Navy cruiser this was short lived after a tense confrontation.
Chuck did not return home until 1946, and was then posted to an OCTU in North Wales, where he carried out maintenance work on the camp. He brought home several "treasures", including a real leather football for me, and a slab of candied peel, riches indeed after the wartime frugality.
When demobbed he returned to his trade at Price Bros as a bricklayer. He was very proud of his service, and I think talked to me about it more than anyone else. He wore an original Chindit badge on his blazer (which I still have today).
He married Mary Goode in 1947 at Holy Trinity, Stratford on Avon, and they lived in the same house, on which he carried out extensive work, all of their married life.
He was a skilled, versatile and adaptable tradesman, he learnt from my father the skills of making oak chests, and made his own chest complete with carved Chindit badge, which my aunt uses to this day. He eventually became self-employed carrying out many building and maintenance tasks and was well known in the Stratford on Avon area. He became a leading light in the Rover Sports Register car owners club, and won many prizes for the car's immaculate turnout. One such Rover he made a metal Chindit badge which had pride of place on the bumper. Like many Ex-Servicemen, he had never sent for his medals, his argument being that "they" should have sent them to him. When my father died in 1974, I belatedly sent for his medals, this prompted Chuck and he got me to send for his, I have them now. These were mounted and he did for the first time wear them for a few parades and services.
While carrying out a full and active life he always claimed that his health was never the same after his spell in Burma.



Chuck died in October 1994, and I was proud to read the lesson at his funeral, he like so many had done his duty for his country, and never forgot his time with the Chindits.

Ron Hartill
“Chucks” Nephew


© Ron Hartill 2005