Chindit Badge
Wounded

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  • H G Lambert      a soldier with the Chindits
    Evacuation via Vultee L-5

    Chindit carrying his wounded mate to awaiting Vultee L-5 for evacuation
    photo courtesy of 14 USAAF 27 Troop Carrier Squadron


    About one hour before first light on the morning of May 13th 1944, 47 Column, Leicestershire Regiment were ambushed in their bivouac, by a patrol from the Japanese 53 Division. This was the Columns second choice bivouac site, the first had generated a sense of unease and the Column had retreated further away from the railway corridor into the jungle

    Two officers, a sergeant major and six privates were killed, thirteen men were wounded and five were missing.

    Harold, was one of the wounded, shot through the lower leg. In 1990 he recalled:

    "There was a hell of a racket, some were still asleep, others were brewing up when all hell let loose,at first I didn't realise how badly I`d been wounded, I was more concerned for the mule that was carrying all the column's  money..it was so badly wounded it had to be shot. Major Yeatman-Biggs, tried to lead a counter attack, but as he  stood up he fell dead with a bullet through the head, we then  dispersed further into the jungle, I was lucky as I could still walk after a fashion, lots of Japanese were killed, and as we scrambled up a steep mountainside, and over a river  we lost lots of mules, either through falls or drowning. We shouldn't have been there, the Japanese seemed well prepared and although this first bivouac was cancelled due to the danger we sensed, we were still too near a track"

    The column were not pursued, and although not having a dispersal map reference, quickly managed to regroup, and two days later also made contact with the Nigerians, further to the west. Harold feels it was due to the help of the Nigerians, and the constant attention of the Column's Medical Officer, that he lived to tell his tale.

    The column missed one of the supply drops due to the ambush, and had to sample the delights mule meat, the discomfort compounded by the full onset of the monsoon, when the column was on the steep exposed mountainside. In "The Chindit War", by Shelford Bidwell,(Hodder and Staughton), the "escape":

    "The terrain to the west of the Railway Valley is difficult enough in dry weather. Ridge and valley have no distinguishing pattern......the  spot-heights on the map jump from 1000 ft to 5000ft and the whirls of the contours are so close that at first glance the map presents a uniformly brown tinge. Every step of the way was up one impossible slope and down another.........When the monsoon downpour began, the hundreds of chaungs draining the area changed from clear rills or dry ravines to torrents of foaming water that could sweep away a man or mule. The flanks of the hills became mud slides. Steps had to be cut and revetted with bamboo, mules off-loaded and led to the top while the men carried up the weapons and heavy gear. a good day's march was five miles, a bad one a mile, but in that country horizontal distance meant nothing"

    Harold was evacuated by light aircraft from an airstrip on the shores of Lake Indawgyi, then by Dakota to India where he was hospitalised for several weeks in a temporary military hospital where his wounds were "cleaned up", before being transferred by boat for a 4 day journey down the Bramaputra River to a larger hospital and, and then to Madras, enduring several painful skin grafts.

    It was only then that Harold realised how lucky he was when he learned the full extent of the casualties in the ambush.

    Harold`s real fear was that he would become separated from his colleagues, in the confusion and darkness after the ambush, but due to the professionalism of his colleagues, and the dispersal plans that the column had practised time and time again, his worries were unfounded.

    The evacuation of casualties, was a wonderful morale booster for the Chindits second Expedition, following the heavy casualties of the Chindits first expedition. John Masters, in "The Road Past Mandalay (Michael Joseph 1961} writes about an incident during training when an emergency called for speedy evacuation:

    "The strip for an L-5 was supposed to be 500 feet absolute minimum, but the only place available at the scene of the accident was a bumpy field no more than 4500 feet long. An l-5 went in, rescued the wretched man and took off safely. The whole force had heard of it within 5 hours. The commander's hopes and the soldier's morale rose sky-high. Now if we got hit in the middle of Burma we would not be left under a bush to die."

    In one case, two men were evacuated within 10 minutes of getting wounded, and time after time again the American pilots risked there own lives to evacuate wounded and ill Chindit's, from obscure, bumpy tree shrouded strips ,many miles behind enemy lines.

     


    From Harold's memories and various written sources, it has been possible to locate of the Commonwealth War Commission's "Debt of Honour" website, the following soldiers of 47 Column, 7th Battalion, Leicestershire Regiment who lost their lives on Saturday May 13th 1944. I do not believe this is the full record of those who lost their lives, and would welcome any additions of amendments.

    The following roll is designed as a further memorial to these brave men


    Private JOHN HENRY ARABIN
    4864336, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 31
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Private ARABIN, Son of Enoch and Jane Arabin; husband of Violet Betsy Howarth Arabin, of Northampton.
    Remembered with honour
    TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY

    Lance Corporal FRANK STANLEY BREAKSPEAR
    2145574, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 32
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Remembered with honour
    TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY

    Private THOMAS JOSEPH EVANS
    3714155, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 26
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Remembered with honour
    TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY

    Corporal,E. GLOVER,
    4864936, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 33
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Corporal GLOVER, Son of William and Lois Glover; husband of Mavis Lucy Glover, of Leicester.
    Remembered with honour
    TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY

    Corporal WILLIAM DOUGLAS HARRIS
    5571128, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 25
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Corporal HARRIS, Husband of A. H. Harris, of Lostwithiel, Cornwall.
    Remembered with honour
    RANGOON MEMORIAL

    Warrant Officer Class II PHILIP KENNETH HOLMES
    4856216, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 31
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Warrant Officer Class II HOLMES, Son of Mr. and Mrs. Albert George Holmes; husband of Peggy Holmes, of Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire.
    Remembered with honour
    TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY

    Lance Serjeant PENNEY
    4864487, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 33
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Lance Serjeant PENNEY, Son of Charles and Lucy Penney; husband of Jane Penney, of Calow, Derbyshire.
    Remembered with honour
    TAUKKYAN WAR CEMETERY

    Corporal GEORGE SIMS
    4856542, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 30
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Remembered with honour
    RANGOON MEMORIAL

    Second Lieutenant JOHN HENRY SUTTON
    315036, attd. 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regimentwho died on
    Saturday 13 May 1944 . Age 20

    Private COLIN HIGGON WILLIAMS
    7947010, 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment
    who died age 22
    on Saturday 13 May 1944.
    Remembered with honour
    RANGOON MEMORIAL

    Major ARTHUR HUYSHE YEATMAN-BIGGS
    40701, 10th Bn., Green Howards (Yorkshire Regt.)
    attd. 7th Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died on
    Saturday 13 May 1944 . Age 36
    Son of William Huyshe Yeatman-Biggs and Muriel Barbara Yeatman-Biggs, of Stockton, Wiltshire; husband of Katharine Edith Clare Yeatman-Biggs, of Stockton. M.A. (Oxon.).


    Information used by permission of The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who retain full copyright