Chindit Badge




  • H G Lambert      a soldier with the Chindits


    DANE BOUSTEAD ( Vanderspar)

    June 1911-May 2005

    Obituary reprinted with the kind permission of the Daily Telegraph.

    Dane Boustead 7th Leicestershire Regiment MC (bar)

    Dane Boustead, who has died aged 93, won an MC at the break-out of Tobruk in 1941 and a Bar in the 2nd Chindit Expedition in 1944.

    In 1944, Operation Thursday was launched with the aim of dropping long-range penetration troops into the heart of Burma to strike against the rail, road and river systems serving the Japanese army operating against General Stilwell's American-Chinese forces approaching from the north.

    Boustead, then a captain in the 7th Battalion the Leicestershire Regiment, flew in to "Aberdeen", the code name for one of the fortified bases behind enemy lines, south of Myitkyina. As with all Chindit battalions, the 7th Leicesters were split into two columns and, by early April, columns 47 and 74 were operating as independent formations in the jungle.

    The Japanese, highly skilled in jungle craft and able to march and fight on a handful of rice a day, were formidable enemies. One of their unpleasant tactics was to dig pits at the side of the tracks in which they inserted bamboo shoots, the ends of which had been sharpened to a needle-sharp point. They used to fire along these tracks, and anyone jumping out of the way risked landing on top of the spikes.

    Another of their tricks was to poison the waterholes. Birds and many animals would drink the water, but the mules would turn away. Where a mule drank, the water was safe.

    Boustead accompanied 74 column on the march northwards through drenching jungle in relentless tropical rain to link up with the Chinese army. The cumulative effects of humidity, illness, insects, leeches and the appalling conditions underfoot took a toll of their numbers.

    On May 21 the column was about to cross a small mountain range near Indawgyi Lake by the Kyunsalai Pass when a coded message was received that the Japanese were moving parallel to them and clearly intended to use the pass. A race ensued through the teak forest under a rising moon to be first to seize it.

    The strain of trying to move swiftly over a carpet of rustling leaves while remaining unheard and unseen was so great that the scouts had to be changed every 10 minutes. The forward platoon secured the pass in the nick of time, and had just called up the rest of the column when they heard the sound of Japanese engines moving up it.

    Boustead was ordered to take two platoons and lay an ambush for the enemy while the rest of the column dug in. When a company of Japanese came up the road they were virtually annihilated. He held the position under continuous fire and beat off an attack in company strength until he was relieved on May 25. He was awarded his second MC.

    Edgar Mellvill Dane Boustead was born on June 2 1911 in Colombo, Ceylon. His father's surname was Vanderspar, but in 1951 Dane changed his name by deed poll; Boustead was his mother's maiden name, and he was to spend much of his life working for the family firm, Boustead Brothers, managing agents in the tea, rubber and insurance businesses.

    He was educated at Harrow before going up to Magdalen College, Oxford, to read PPE.

    In 1932 he started work in London with Boustead Bros, and in the same year he reached the second round of the All England Championships at Wimbledon - he was knocked out by Denmark's top player.

    After a spell as a tea planter in Ceylon, he worked for Boustead Bros in Colombo before joining the Ceylon Planters Rifle Corps in 1939. One of his duties was to stand on the breakwater and defend Colombo Harbour against invasion by the Japanese.

    Boustead enlisted in the Rifle Brigade and, in 1941, was commissioned into the Leicestershire Regiment and saw active service in North Africa with the 2nd Battalion. On the night of November 25 that year, he commanded a platoon in "C" Company in a night attack near Tobruk.

    When the supporting tanks were held up by a minefield some distance short of the enemy posts, his company continued to advance. Calling for covering fire from his platoon, Boustead cut the wire of an enemy post and, with one of his sections, killed or evicted the enemy in one half of the post.

    He established his platoon there, despite having suffered 50 per cent casualties and despite the fact that the enemy still held the trenches, some 20 yards away, and were equipped with three machine guns. When he ran short of ammunition, he decided to withdraw as soon as the moon went down.

    Boustead evacuated the remainder of his platoon successfully and rejoined his company. The enemy subsequently abandoned the post and the Leicesters occupied it. His outstanding leadership was recognised by the award of an MC.

    He accompanied the 2nd Battalion to Burma, where he transferred to the 7th Battalion which had been selected for long-range penetration operations and needed war-tried officers. After the campaign in Burma, he returned to England and served as deputy assistant adjutant-general at the War Office.

    He had recurrent malaria and one day collapsed in a chemist. The manager took his temperature and offered to call the fire brigade instead of an ambulance. In 1946 he retired from the Army and rejoined Boustead Bros in Colombo as a director. He remained with the company, which later became Whittall Boustead, until he retired in 1962.

    Boustead came back to England and settled in Surrey where, for the next 20 years, he taught O-Level English and History. He remained a proficient tennis player, playing regularly until he was 80. He was secretary, and subsequently chairman, of the local branch of the British Legion for 15 years.

    Dane Boustead married first, in 1951, Auriel Noble, who predeceased him. He married secondly, in 1980, Diana Ley, who survives him with the two daughters of his first marriage.

    news.telegraph May 5th 2005