Most of this information comes from "Return Via Rangoon" by Philip Stibbe, which describes the first venture into Burma by Brigadeer Orde Wingate's "Chindits". The book gives fairly detailed descriptions of the British contingent, which, it strikes me, would make a very nice Crossfire force.

The Chindits were named after the griffin-like mythical beasts which acted as temple guardians in Burma. Wingate’s idea was to wage a totally new type of war. He proposed that troops be trained to go behind enemy lines, using mules for transport, and being supplied by air, and fight all the way through the monsoon season, and cause as much trouble for the Japanese as possible, destroying supply lines and the like.

The force had eight "columns", commanded by captains and majors. 1-4 were mainly Ghurkas, 5-8 mainly King's Regiment (Lancs.) Number six column was disbanded and used to bring all the other columns to full strength.

Each column had:

3 rifle platoons.
No very detailed breakdown of the platoons is in the book, but I believe them to be fairly standard platoons for the period, consisting of three sections, each with one bren gun and a rifle team. The platoon command sections were made up as follows:

Lieutenant (on horse!)

Presumably each platoon had a 2" mortar team as well. I found no reference to anti-tank weapons, so probably no AT rifles, and near certainly no PIATs. There weren’t many tanks in the jungle.

1 support platoon
3" mortars and Vickers MMGs (refers to "the mortar section of the support platoon" so perhaps this is only 2 x Vickers and 2 x 3")

1 platoon of Burma riflemen
"Burrifs". All of these were "Karens" – a Christian tribe. Used to question locals and scout areas with locals in. They would often change out of uniform to do this.

1 platoon of sappers and commandos from 142 company.
Many of the objectives were blowing things up (bridges, railways etc.). No details, I’m afraid.

Some signallers, medical orderlies, muleteers.

1 message dog
This had two masters. If the column split, it could go from one master to the other with messages attached. No one but one of its masters was allowed to feed or pet the dog.

90 mules
Mules fed mainly on foraged bamboo leaves. They started out with some bullock-drawn carts as well, but these were ditched during the expedition. The mules of the second Chindit expedition were "devoiced" to stop them braying. It seems, though, that braying was not a problem of note during the first expedition - the mules were simply taught not to be noisy and weren’t. On the return trip from the first expedition, many mules were shot and eaten.

Column HQ:
Commanding Officer (Major)
Adjutant (Lt.)
Admin Officer (Capt.)
Medical Officer (Capt.)
Air Liaison Officer (they were supplied by air-drop) (Flight Lt.)
Cypher officer (Lt.)
Animal transport officer (2nd Lt.)
Column Sgt. Major (CSMJ)

You might like to have a look at this page, which has a higher-level OOB on it, which mentions nothing much smaller than a regiment.

Other potentially useful/interesting facts:

Column half a mile long. Covered typically 20 miles a day. Marched for 60 minutes then rested 15. Three hour mid-day halt every day.

In column, of the three main platoons, one would be "reserve", one "escort" (guard and help load/unload the mules), one "perimeter" (guard the camp - stay awake). Would swap roles every 24 hours.

One column would be used to go to place X and distract Japs away from another column's target at Y. I read of no action involving the whole force, so this is the perfect excuse for using just one column in a wargame. The columns were designed to be independent.

Mules carried some dinghies, but most rivers crossed by swimming. It took three hours to cross one major river (Irrawaddy).

Orders conveyed to whole column by bugle. Orders included “disperse”, “strike camp”, “officers to conference”.

Chindits were mostly 28-35 years old.

Each man carried 70lbs of equipment. Each had an "Everest pack" - which was a rucksack with frame - small by today's standards, but bigger than usual WW2 British back pack. In it was: 7 days’ rations, shirt, slacks, socks, rubber hockey boots, housewife (sewing kit), water purification tablets, mess tins, cutlery. Each man carried dah or kukri (big native knives). Also carried were: rifle, bayonet, ammunition, 3 grenades, water bottle, canvas water container, water wings, toggle rope, jack knife, attabrin malaria tablets. These things were compulsory. Other things were optional. Each man issued 25 silver ruppees.

One day’s rations: 12 shakpura biscuits, 2oz cheeze, 1oz milk powder, 9oz raisins or dates, 3/4oz tea, 1 packet salt, 4 oz sugar, 1 oz chocolate or acid drops, 20 cigarettes, 1 box matches. No loo roll carried - they used grass, and were unimpressed by the American practice of carrying loo roll.

Officers had Verey (flare) pistols, revolvers, torches, many maps (one platoon officer had fifty), and letters to be left with the wounded, entrusting them to the care of the local Burmans (the word Burmese refers to one tribe of the many in Burma).

The troops wore mainly "Jungle Green". They had bush hats rather than helmets.

Beards were encouraged.

Platoon fires for cooking etc. were all lit in close circle, to look from a distance like one fire.

Communication with high command all by radio. Brits never used speech on radio - only morse.

It took over a month before the men started getting louse-ridden.

A printed letter was sent to the relatives of each Chindit every month explaining that the man was well, but could not write. Mail was received by Chindits by air drop.

Burman villages were smart and well-kept, with teak and bamboo houses, golden pagodas, good wells sunk by the (ousted British) government, and orange-robed priests, and men in lungi skirts/wraps of bright colours.

RAF bombed concentrations of Japs reported by column.

Japs signalled Chindits' location to Jap aircraft with semi-circle of fires.

The second expedition used gliders. 96% of the second expedition was air-supplied.

Many losses suffered were simply men getting lost, and then returning to India in dribs and drabs, rather than try and locate the column in the vastness of Burma's jungles.

Japs were fit, but smoked a lot and were very noisy, so easy to find in jungle. Many wore thick glasses, and most knew some English. They were always asking prisoners about their sex lives. They showed tremendous deference to their officers.

Indian National Army was a sizeable force in Rangoon, raised by the Japs to "liberate" India. It recruited from the Indian prisoners in Rangoon jail. It was thought that if used, they'd mainly have defected to the British at the first opportunity. What actually happened was perhaps more remarkable. Two officers in Rangoon jail, one British, one Australian, started issuing orders to the INA once the Japanese had abandoned the city. Playing a magnificent game of bluff, they managed to get the whole INA to surrender to them.

The Burmese Defence Army was given command of Rangoon by the Japs, and this turned pro-British the instant the Japs left.

The actress Joanna Lumley's father was a Chindit officer.

One amazing story:
A crashed airman got word to the military prisoners in Rangoon, that the city was about to be bombed by 29 squadrons of Flying Fortresses the next day. The prisoners were terrified of being bombed to death so close to liberation, and told the airman that the bombing was pointless because the Japs had abandoned the city. The same airman set off in a tiny boat in the hope of reaching some off-shore navy vessels and telling them this. The prisoners did not see the airman again. The next day, the sky filled with Flying Fortresses. The bomb doors opened, and from these dropped... supplies! He had made it.

The British 14th Army which liberated the region around Rangoon was vast, keen, efficient, confident. The men volunteered to go on half rations, so that more petrol could be dropped, and the job finished sooner.

On the rough roads of Burma, the Japanese used captured British lorries, which were more robust than their own vehicles.

The Japanese insisted that they were brave because they would commit suicide rather than be captured. The British insisted that they were brave because they would suffer capture rather than take the coward’s way out of suicide.

65% of Wingate's expedition made it back to India to fight again. Wingate himself died in a plane crash.

200 Chindits were captured. Half of these died after capture.

Half of the book deals with the capture and imprisonment of the author. I shan’t go into all the detail of that. It is pretty gruelling. One notable thing is the tremendous loyalty shown by the non-British members of the British army. One Gurkha was given the task of writing an essay saying what he thought of the British. He simply wrote in block capitals “THE BRITISH ALWAYS HAVE BEEN AND ALWAYS WILL BE THE FINEST RACE IN THE WORLD”. For this, he was severely punished. On a lighter note, one man in prison caught malaria and went mad. In a fit of madness, he escaped, and no one ever found out how.



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