BBC HomeExplore the BBC
This page has been archived and is no longer updated. Find out more about page archiving.

15 October 2014
WW2 - People's War

BBC Homepage
BBC History
WW2 People's War Homepage Archive List Timeline About This Site

Contact Us

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MY CHINDITS CAMPAIGN - PART 1

by AgeConcernShropshire

You are browsing in:

Archive List > British Army

Contributed by 
AgeConcernShropshire
People in story: 
Ted Tinsley
Location of story: 
India & Burma
Background to story: 
Army
Article ID: 
A5328038
Contributed on: 
25 August 2005

A BRIEF HISTORY OF MY CHINDITS CAMPAIGN

This story is transcribed by me , Graham Shepherd , from notes following discussions with Ted Tinsley , and will be added to the site with his permission . He understands the sites terms and conditions .

I joined the Shropshire Regiment in 1934 when I was 16 years old - I lied of course - and then joined the 1st Battalion Kings Shropshire Light Infantry and in 1938 was posted to India , initially in Nagpur and then onto Karachi . At the end of 1938 we were sent back to the UK , but not for long being sent to Kingston , Jamaica in January 1939 with the 2nd Battalion KSLI and then onto Curacao in the Dutch Antilles when war broke out . We built an internment camp there and we were left to run it , until relieved by the Canadian Winipeg Grenadiers .

We were then deployed in Aruba following the French pull out , and eventually returned to Curacao . Our next move took us by boat to Hamilton , Bermuda and then onto Halifax Nova Scotia . A gang of about 15 then joined the Cape Town Castle as part of a major convoy bringing Canadian troops to Liverpool .

After a short leave I went to Harlescott in Shrewsbury before being sent to Dorchester to join the 1st Battalion Herefords - which were part of the KSLI - were we were put on draft for India to join the 4th Battalion Border Regiment based at Ranchi . We were part of a large convoy bound for Bombay where after stopping off at Durban we arrived in late spring 1942 . With the troubles taking place in India we were involved as a PATFORCE policing internal security , mostly in Patna , Bihar .

We eventually moved onto Bangalore and from there onto the Arakon Front , where we were deployed on patrols . We were then transported back to Bangalore where we were told by Officer Jim Menzies - Anderson - who had served with the first Chindits Expedition in 1943 - that we had been selected the second Chinditz Expedition . We moved to the Gwalior Province about 100 miles south of Jhansi for our training . We were based next to the River Ken . We spent many weeks training to prepare us for the task which lay ahead and during this time we were joined by the mules which had to be ‘ silenced ‘ - but more on this later - who were to be our loyal partners during the campaign .

When training was complete we were transported to Sauger station to begin a 7 day / night train journey on the Assam / Bengal line to Mokochung . The first part of the journey was on wide gauge track , but we then had to transfer to a narrow gauge track . I was a Lance Corporal at this time , but we all had to sleep between the mules . Every time the train stopped we put tea in our cups and went forward to the engine for hot water . The narrow gauge line had been taken over by the Americans in order to speed it up and our train was given the code name ‘ Turpentine ‘ and as we left one station the station master sent us off saying that we were the most important cargo he had had .

The Nagaland district where we were in action comprised of continuous large mountains and jungle valleys with very fast flowing rivers in all the valleys . We received our first supply drop for about two weeks in Mokochung , where the Chieftain bought his son a rifle so that he could join us as a translator since there were different dialects as you moved through the territory .Unfortunately the son was killed in the first ambush we experienced , so we were off to a bad start to our expedition . Our expedition consisted of the 55th Column Chindits - to which I was attached - and the 34th Column consisting of about 500 men and were part of the 23rd Infantry Brigade . One of the rules applied was that every man in the column either shaved or grew a beard , no mixture . The 55th shaved and the 34th grew their beards .

Our role was to locate the Japs supply routs and ambush them in the valleys . The conditions were unbelievably severe . The expedition started in April 1944 and the monsoons started in May and lasted until September so we were continually marching through hot jungles with water up to our armpits . The leeches were uncontrollable , attaching themselves all over our bodies . Our silent mules were our true friends carrying five days of supplies , and when we came to deep rivers which we could not walk across we had to set up a rope to hold onto , but it was safer to keep hold of the mules who were excellent swimmers . It was amazing that with their legs working hard under water they never kicked us .

We used to get a supply drop every five days , which also involved a drop of grain - one sack in three hession sacks for the mules . We also had to provide about 14 lbs . of bamboo a day for the mules . One amazing thing was that in amongst the grain was ‘ rock salt ‘ which to the Nagas was a delicacy and they preferred this to money ! . When we were in the hills and needed water both for ourselves and the mules the Nagas would go down into the valley and carry it up for a supply of salt .We were on the move every day and many of the villages we came across had never seen people from the west before . Most of the men had shaven heads with a small pigtail at the back . Many wore hats made out of bark , and some had bones through their noses . They had no love for the Japs who treated them cruelly .

When ration drops were due our RO would use the radio to guide them in - the mules also carried the radios which were quite bit and also an engine for power . The exhaust was buried underground to stop the noise . Quietness was an essential part of our role . Unfortunately our RO was killed when one of the parachutes carrying supplies failed to open and it landed on him .

We relied on the local people for information where the Japs were camped so that we could prepare our ambush . We would leave a team for this task whilst the majority moved on . They would eventually catch us up . The ambushes throughout the campaign were very successful and for each man lost we killed around 25 Japs . The ambushes occurred frequently . At times the mules could not get through and the Nagas carried five days of rations on their backs . At night we always had to sleep in two’s - officers and men together - with the mules.

Malaria was common we had to take daily medication and Vitamin C . You were only evacuated if you were seriously wounded . If you were ill with Malaria you were allowed to ride on a mule . Our MO Cpt. Calder gave blood transfusions on the spot - he was a wonderful man who also treated the locals . When at the top of the hills at night we could see the battles taking place at Kohima where we thought we were heading for , but we met up with the 14th Army at Ukral and headed for Imphal . Before reaching Imphal the 34th had to shave off their beards .

About a third of the lads were then air lifted out , a few suffering from Sprue ( coughing ) and other tropical diseases . One of the men wanted a mirror to take to hospital with him so I lent him one which I had taken from the Japs - I never saw it again !

Our campaign , which lasted 16 weeks was described to us as the greatest feat of endurance since Hannibal crossed the Alps .

We moved from Imphal back to Bangalore from where I was given six weeks special leave back in the UK , but was told that I had to return back to Kalewa . When I returned I was asked what I was doing there , I was not needed so returned back home .

This story will be followed up with a series of shorter stories giving detailed accounts of many of the incidents which happened during the build up to and including the 2nd Chindits Expedition

© Copyright of content contributed to this Archive rests with the author. Find out how you can use this.

Archive List

This story has been placed in the following categories.

British Army Category
icon for Story with photoStory with photo

Most of the content on this site is created by our users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the BBC. The BBC is not responsible for the content of any external sites referenced. In the event that you consider anything on this page to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please click here. For any other comments, please Contact Us.



About the BBC | Help | Terms of Use | Privacy & Cookies Policy