Chindits prepare a railway bridge behind Japanese lines for destruction.

Chindits prepare a railway bridge behind Japanese lines for destruction.

As the Japanese continued their attack on Kohima in their attempt to break into India, they were also attempting to contain the Chindit operation deep inside Burma. The Chindits, a long range deep penetration operation behind Japanese lines, had established a number of strongpoints in the jungle. These were both operating bases and defensive positions. They contained rough airstrips by which the Chindits were resupplied and the wounded evacuated.

Through reconnaissance the Chindits were aware that the Japanese were closing in on one of the strong points, “White City”. Brigadier ‘Mad’ Mike Calvert led a strong force out into the jungle to take the attackers by surprise:

We ‘advanced with the Reconnaissance Regiment forming the spearhead immediately followed by my special ‘élite’ company of Gurkhas, under young Ian MacPherson, who acted as mobile reserve to go in whenever trouble was brewing. We went further north this time then turned in towards White City.

We met odd pockets of Japs on the way but they were no match for our force and we killed thirty or forty that day without loss to ourselves. By dusk we had reached a point about a mile south-east of the block, an ideal spot from which to go for the enemy as they gathered to attack White City. We camped for the night but lit no fires and the japs did not know we were there until the Reconnaissance Regiment took an enemy unit completely by surprise in a dawn raid. The reconnaissance boys drove a deep wedge into the Jap positions outside the block and the rest of the column moved up in support.

The battle was now well and truly on. The enemy realized that they were being attacked from the rear and turned on us ferociously. We estimated that well over 2,000 Japs were now squeezed between us and the block, which was only half a mile away at several points along our front. I had previously arranged with Gillmore that as we pushed the japs against his defences he would launch an attack from the block itself, and during the moming we could hear the Nigerians from White City, as they broke out among the now bewildered enemy.

But these Japs were good soldiers, well led and well equipped and willing to fight to the last man. They recovered and made a sudden counter-attack, catching my Brigade H.Q. in the crossfire of heavy machine—guns. We kept ourselves flat on the ground as the bullets scythed through the thick jungle undergrowth a couple of feet above our heads. The unfortunate mules carrying our wireless sets could not get down far enough. I watched fascinated as bullet holes appeared in rows along their bodies, little spurts of blood in line, before they crashed to the ground.

Suddenly we heard the roar of planes above our heads and I sighed with relief. Before the battle had really got going I had ordered the Mustangs for 1 p.m., when I reckoned the fighting would be at its height and they would be of most use. This time my gamble had paid off and my estimate was dead right. I rolled over and over until I was lying beside Mungo Park, my signals officer, who was in touch with White City on his wireless set. I asked the signals people to tell the Mustangs they had to be absolutely accurate with their bombing and strafing, as we were very close to the Japs.

To emphasize just how close we were Mungo told me I was shouting into the set and every time I spoke the japs fired in the direction of my voice. Then the Mustangs began diving, slap bang on target. We muffled our heads in our arms to shut out the roar of exploding bombs and the earth shivered and shook beneath our bellies. The strafing followed and again Cochrane’s boys showed off their pin-point accuracy. The Jap machine-guns stopped abruptly and the intense feeling of relief at our release from that stuttering menace brought tears to my eyes.

We had all had enough and it was time to move. The question was, which way? As we discussed it the forward reconnaissance boys reported that several well-dug-in Jap machine-guns were still capable of firing along the narrow valley between us and the block where so many of our men had died already.

See Michael Calvert: Fighting Mad: One Man’s Guerrilla War.

The men inside “White City” were from the Kings African Rifles. There used to be much more about their contribution to the battle in Burma at [http://www.medalofkar.com/veterans/index.php?] Medal of Kar. It may be possible to access this from the internet archive.

Chindits making tea at their jungle bivouac.

Chindits making tea at their jungle bivouac.

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Apr

23

1944

Slow motion nightmare in a Lancaster over Dusseldorf

Here a B-17 Flying Fortress crew of the 96th Bomb Group, US Eighth Air Force, mingle with Lancaster crews of No 622 Squadron


23 April 1944: Slow motion nightmare in a Lancaster over Dusseldorf

The bombs were actually dropping from the aircraft when there was a tremendous explosion. For a brief period of time everything seemed to happen in ultra-slow motion. The explosion knocked me on my back; I was aware of falling on to the floor of the aircraft, but it seemed an age before I actually made contact. I distinctly remember ‘bouncing’. Probably lots of flying clothing and Mae Wests broke my fall, but under normal circumstances one would not have been aware of ‘bouncing’.

Apr

22

1944

Surviving harassing shellfire at Anzio


22 April 1944: Surviving harassing shellfire at Anzio

One small piece of A.P. entered/my hole, via the mosquito net. Several fell just outside. Mess dugout hit, RHQ office tent & about four bivvies. 42 Bty had one man killed. RHQ 3 wounded, incl 2 signalmen & Cpl Thorley, the cook. Sloped [?] about in the mist in the valley collecting stretchers & putting them into ambulance. Meanwhile a U.S. ammo dump nearby had been hit, & was going off continuously until about 0700 hrs, bits of metal whizzing all around. Another raid about 0615, fighter bomber quite low. Our O.P. saw one plane crash, bearing 7 deg about 0615 hrs.

Apr

21

1944

Heavy civilian casualties as the Allies bomb Paris


21 April 1944: Heavy civilian casualties as the Allies bomb Paris

Thus, I woke up at 5am and boarded the first Métro carriage which stopped at Jules Joffrin station. From there I reached, running more or less, the warehouse. Everything was burning. The Porte de La Chapelle was particularly knocked down. All the houses have collapsed on the ground. A bomb exploded over the Métro which is in shambles. From the Porte de La Chapelle to our warehouse [ca. 1 km], everything was flames and devastation. The bombing was very dense.

Apr

20

1944

580 men die as SS Paul Hamilton explodes


20 April 1944: 580 men die as SS Paul Hamilton explodes

When I arrived at the side of the ship, I found that they had rigged up a cargo net over the side for us to climb up on. The waves were running maybe three to five feet at the time, so I waited until I was lifted by a wave and grabbed the cargo net. However, I was so weakened by the cold that I could not hold on and fell back into the sea. The next time I tried, when the wave lifted me and I reached for the net, two sailors grabbed me by the seat of my pants and heaved me up on deck.

Apr

19

1944

Operation Cockpit – the Japanese surprised at Sabang


19 April 1944: Operation Cockpit – the Japanese surprised at Sabang

At the rate of ten tons a minute, 350 tons of steel and high explosive struck Sabang in the 35 minutes the bombardment lasted. Battleships; cruisers and destroyers poured shells varying from 4-in. to 15-in. into the base at close range. When the flagship turned away after completing her firing she was only two miles from the green, jungle-covered hills which rise steeply from the sea around Sabang.

Apr

18

1944

The relief of Kohima begins


18 April 1944: The relief of Kohima begins

At 09.30 hours Corporal Judges and his section consisting of Privates Johnson,Thrussel and myself, as well as Corporal Veal’s section, went onto the road to help evacuate the wounded Indians, BORs, walking and stretcher cases. It was my job to look at the stretcher cases. If they were dead I had to send the Indian stretcher bearers round the back of the feature where they put the bodies in a heap to be buried later.

Apr

17

1944

The bombing of Semlin Judenlager


17 April 1944: The bombing of Semlin Judenlager

Besides the dead, there were several hundred wounded, so the surviving pavilions were turned into hospitals. There were no beds, and certainly no bandages or surgical equipment, although we did have several doctors and surgeons among the interns

Apr

16

1944

‘Black Sunday’ as tropical storm hits US 5th Air Force


16 April 1944: ‘Black Sunday’ as tropical storm hits US 5th Air Force

The whole area was full of planes-B-24s, B-25s, A-20s and P-38s. We got down to 50 feet above the coast and followed it towards Saidor. I directed Polecat (Pilot Ed P. Poltrack) to the right and left along the coast. He and Jack were both flying, dodging planes. Once our airspeed went down to 120 – looked like we would have to ditch any minute. Now and then we would lose sight of the coast and weave back and forth along our course to pick it up again.

Apr

15

1944

HMS Storm torpedoes a Japanese destroyer


15 April 1944: HMS Storm torpedoes a Japanese destroyer

Two muffled depth-charges were heard shortly after the first two explosions, but the hit on the destroyer seemed to have demoralised the screen, as no further attempt at a counter-attack was made. I was able to watch the whole affair quite happily from a range of two miles or so, and Petty Officer E. R. Evans, the T.G.M., was able to have a look at his victim burning furiously.