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15 October 2014
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by AgeConcernShropshire

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People in story: 
Ted Tinsley
Location of story: 
India & Burma
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Contributed on: 
25 August 2005


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

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