|Born||26 Feb 1903|
|Died||24 Mar 1944|
Contributor: C. Peter Chen
Orde Charles Wingate was born in Naini Tal, India to a professional soldier. He received a religious upbringing because of his relation with a missionary family on his mother's side, and entered the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich in 1921. He was posted to Sudan and served under his uncle, Sir Reginald Wingate, Governor General of Sudan; at Sudan, he led troops in patrolling and ambushing slave traders and ivory poachers on the Abyssinian border. He married Lorna Moncrieff Paterson in 1935. In 1936, he was assigned to an intelligence position in Palestine. He believed that this assignment reflected his religious duty to help the establishment of a Jewish Zionist state. With the permission of Archibald Wavell, he organized Jewish commando forces to fight against the Arab Revolt. He gained valuable experience in unconventional warfare that was to be priceless for his future career, but his close involvement with the Zionist movement also put him in political isolation. In May 1939, he was transferred back to Britain, largely due to British politicians' complaint of his open support of Zionism.
When the European War began, Wingate was the commander of an anti-aircraft unit in Britain. He was soon transferred to East Africa on request of Wavell. Lieutenant Colonel Wingate formed and commanded the Gideon force, which was consisted of British, Sudanese, and Abyssinian nationals, as well as some of the Jewish commandos he had trained in Palestine. The Gideon Force began operating in Feb 1941 at the strength of 1,700 men, disrupting supply and communications lines of the much larger Italian army. During the British invasion of Italian East Africa, his units linked up with William Platt's Sudan Force and operated closely with it in the Gojjam Province. On 5 May, Emperor of Abyssinia Haile Selassie, previously exiled by Italian troops in 1936, returned to Addis Ababa under the escort of Wingate's troops. On 4 Jun 1941, the Gideon Force was disbanded and Wingate was returned to his peace time rank of major. After the East Africa campaign, he contracted malaria. A local doctor provided him a supply of the drug Atabrine, which caused a side effect of depression. Coupled with his disappointment of how Britain conducted the war in Abyssinia, the depression led to an unsuccessful suicide attempt by stabbing himself in the neck. He was brought back to Britain to receive medical treatment.
From early on in his career, Wingate had been known as an unique eccentric. He often carried around raw onions to snack on, and he sometimes replaced bathing with scrubbings with a rubber brush. "[Wingate] seemed to me hardly sane", commented Churchill's personal physician.
On 27 Feb 1942, again on recommendation of Wavell, Wingate departed for Burma and India to leverage his experiences gained in Palestine and Abyssinia to organize a guerilla unit there. When it came to naming this brigade-sized unit, he thought of the word "chindit", which was what he thought was "tiger" in Burmese; when he was corrected by his Burmese aide Sao Man Hpa that the correct pronunciation should be "chinthe", Wingate chose to go with his incorrect version instead, citing that any of the two words meant little to his British colleagues anyway, failing to realize that his original thought of giving the unit a Burmese name was actually to inspire his own troops. After a harsh training period in which many men had to be replaced, the Chindits began operating in Burma beginning in Feb 1943. The first mission met with success as it took out a major Japanese railroad, but the overwhelming Japanese defenses forced the force to break up and retreat back into India with heavy casualties. Although the Chindit operations did not go as well as he had hoped, it was nevertheless a small victory against the Japanese forces in the region, and as a result he was noticed by Winston Churchill. Churchill requested Wingate to accompany him to the Octagon Conference so that Wingate could explain to the Allied leaders his theories of deep penetration warfare. Air superiority, radio, and other Allied technological advantages made deep penetration warfare beneficial for the war effort, he argued, and the Allied leaders agreed. He was returned to India after the conference and was promoted to the rank of major general. On 6 Mar 1944, the new Chindits began arriving in Burma via airborne operations. By chance, the deployment coincided with the Japanese invasion of India, and Wingate's troops were able to seriously disrupt the Japanese offensive capabilities. The new Chindit operations were markedly different than the original attempt, in particular strongholds were set up deep within enemy territory from which the penetration missions were sent out from.
On 24 Mar 1944, Wingate performed an inspection on Chindit strongholds in Burma. He arrived at Imphal, India at 1823 hours, and then took off for Hailakandi, India at about 2000 hours. The B-25 bomber he was traveling in cashed into the Naga Hills, killing all 10 aboard. He was originally buried at the site of the crash, but was eventually moved to the Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, United States; this was due to the fact that most of the 10 aboard the aircraft were Americans, and all remains were charred beyond recognition, thus it was not possible to tell which body belonged to which passenger or crew.
Louis Mountbatten, Allied Supreme Commander in Southeastern Asia, did not always get along with Wingate, but he wrote his wife Edwina Ashley "I cannot tell you how much I am going to miss Wingate.... He was a pain in the neck to the generals over him, but I loved his wild enthusiasm and it will be difficult for me to try to inculcate it from above." William Slim, who worked with Wingate in India and Burma, thought Wingate's biggest fault was that Wingate "regarded himself as a prophet, and that always leads to a single-centeredness that verges on fanaticism, with all his faults. Yet had he not done so, his leadership could not have been so dynamic, nor his personal magnetism so striking."
Frank McLynn, The Burma Campaign
Orde Wingate Timeline
|26 Feb 1903||Orde Wingate was born.|
|15 Apr 1942||Orde Wingate returned to Maymyo, Burma from China.|
|24 Apr 1942||At Delhi, India, Orde Wingate noted his preference of a proactive long range penetration strategy for his irregular troops.|
|6 Aug 1942||Michael Calvert wrote to Orde Wingate from Delhi, India warning that fellow British officers generally considered Wingate "not fit to command."|
|26 Feb 1943||In Burma, Orde Wingate lectured his officers about the British practice of worshipping gallant losers, citing the celebration of those who succeeded in the Dunkirk evacuation without placing blame on the same leaders whose failures made such an evacuation necessary.|
|21 Jun 1943||Orde Wingate arrived in Delhi, India and met with various British officers.|
|24 Jul 1943||Winston Churchill said "There is no doubt that in the welter of inefficiency and lassitude which has characterised our own operations on the Indian front, this man," referring to Orde Wingate, "his force and his achievements stand out; and no question of seniority must obstruct the advance of real personalities in their proper station in war."|
|25 Jul 1943||Orde Wingate was recalled to Britain.|
|30 Jul 1943||Orde Wingate departed Delhi, India.|
|4 Aug 1943||Orde Wingate arrived in London, England, United Kingdom and was told that he would accompany Winston Churchill to Canada.|
|13 Aug 1943||Orde Wingate shared his plans for an offensive into Burma; Claude Auchinleck, however, argued for Winston Churchill's alternate plan which focused on the Andaman Islands and then Sumatra instead.|
|18 Aug 1943||Orde Wingate met Franklin Roosevelt at Quebec, Canada, introduced by Winston Churchill.|
|23 Aug 1943||The British Joint Planning Staff authorized the transfer of six brigades under Orde Wingate's command for operations in Burma; Wingate had originally wanted eight brigades. The units were to be drawn from the UK 70th Division and the UK 81st African Division.|
|11 Sep 1943||Orde Wingate departed the United Kingdom for Lisbon, Portugal.|
|12 Sep 1943||Orde Wingate departed Lisbon, Portugal for Cairo, Egypt.|
|13 Sep 1943||Orde Wingate departed Cairo, Egypt for Karachi, India.|
|19 Sep 1943||Orde Wingate arrived in Delhi, India.|
|23 Mar 1944||Orde Wingate's headquarters completed its move to Sylhet, British India.|
|24 Mar 1944||Orde Wingate visited the Broadway and White City sites of Operation Thursday in Burma in an attempt to raise the morale of the British 77th Brigade. At 1823 hours, his returning plane arrived at Imphal, India, and then off again shortly before 2000 hours for Hailakandi, India. The aircraft crashed into the Naga hill west of Imphal about 30 minutes after taking off, killing the American pilot Lieutenant Brian Hodges, Wingate, and the other 8 passengers and crew aboard.|
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Lt. Gen. Lewis B. "Chesty" Puller, at Guadalcanal