Orde Charles Wingate
|Birthplace:||Nainital, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India|
|Death:||Died in Bishnupur, Bankura, West Bengal, India|
|Cause of death:||Plane crash in WWII|
|Place of Burial:||later exhumed and reburied in Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia, United States|
|Managed by:||Private User|
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About Orde Charles Wingate
Major-General Orde Charles Wingate, DSO and two bars (26 February 1903 – 24 March 1944), was a British Army officer and creator of special military units in Palestine in the 1930s and in World War II.
A highly religious Christian, Wingate became a supporter of Zionism, seeing it as his religious and moral duty to help the Jewish community in Palestine form a Jewish state. Assigned to the British Mandate of Palestine in 1936, he set about training members of the Haganah, the Jewish paramilitary organization, which became the Israel Defense Forces with the establishment in 1948 of the state of Israel. Wingate became known to the Jewish men he commanded during the Arab Revolt as "The Friend". He is most famous for his creation of the Chindits, airborne deep-penetration troops trained to work behind enemy lines in the Far East campaigns against the Japanese during World War II.
Childhood and education
Wingate was born 26 February 1903, in Naini Tal, near Almora, in Kumaon, India to a military family. His father had become a committed member of the Plymouth Brethren early in his army career in India, and at the age of 46 married the oldest daughter of a family who were also Plymouth Brethren, after wooing her for 20 years. His father reached retirement from the army two years after Wingate was born.
Wingate spent most of his childhood in England where he received a very religious upbringing. It was not uncommon for him to be subjected to long days of reading and memorizing the Old Testament. He was also subjected, by his father, to a harsh and Spartan regimen, living with a daily consciousness of hell-fire and eternal damnation. Because of their parents' strict beliefs, the family of seven children were kept away from other children and from the influence of the outside world. Until he was 12 years old, Orde had hardly ever mixed with children of his own age.
In 1916, his family having moved to Godalming, Wingate attended Charterhouse School as a day boy. Because he did not board at the school and took no part in sports, he became increasingly isolated, so that he missed out on many of the aspects of a public school education of the period. At home lazing about and idling were forbidden, and the children were always given challenging objectives to encourage independent thought, initiative and self reliance.
Early army career
After four years Wingate left Charterhouse and in 1921 he was accepted into the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, the Royal Artillery's officers' training school.
In 1923 Wingate received his gunnery officer's commission[ and was posted to the 5th Medium Brigade at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain.[ During this period he was able to exercise his great interest in horse riding, gaining a reputation for his skill (and success) in point-to-point races and during fox hunting, particularly for finding suitable places to cross rivers, which earned him the nickname "Otter". It was difficult in the 1920s for an army officer to live on his pay and Wingate, living life to the full, also gained a reputation as a late payer of his bills. In 1926, because of his prowess in riding, Wingate was posted to the Military School of Equitation where he excelled, much to the chagrin of the majority of the cavalry officers at the centre who found him insufferable; he frequently challenged the instructors as a demonstration of his rebellious nature.
Wingate's father's "Cousin Rex", Sir Reginald Wingate, a retired army general who had been governor-general of Sudan between 1899 and 1916 and high commissioner of Egypt from 1917 to 1919, had a considerable influence over Wingate's career at this time. He gave him a positive interest in Middle East affairs and in Arabic. As a result Wingate successfully applied to take a course in Arabic at the School of Oriental Studies in London and passed out of the course, which lasted from October 1926 to March 1927, with a mark of 85/100.
In June 1927, with Cousin Rex's encouragement, Wingate obtained six-months' leave in order to mount an expedition in the Sudan. Rex had suggested that he travel via Cairo and then try to obtain secondment to the Sudan Defence Force. Sending his luggage ahead of him, Wingate set off in September 1927 by bicycle, travelling first through France and Germany before making his way to Genoa via Czechoslovakia, Austria and Yugoslavia. Here he took a boat to Egypt. From Cairo he traveled to Khartoum.
In April 1928, his application to transfer to the Sudan Defence Force came through and he was posted to the East Arab Corps, serving in the area of Roseires and Gallabat on the borders of Ethiopia, where the SDF patrolled to catch slave traders and ivory poachers. He changed the method of regular patrolling to ambushes.
In March 1930, Wingate was given command of a company of 300 soldiers with the local rank of bimbashi (major). He was never happier than when in the bush with his unit, but when at HQ in Khartoum he antagonised the other officers with his aggressive and argumentative personality.
At the end of his tour, Wingate mounted a short expedition into the Libyan desert to investigate the lost army of Cambyses, mentioned in the writings of Herodotus, and to search for the lost oasis of Zerzura. Supported by equipment from the Royal Geographical Society (the findings of the expedition were published in the Royal Geographical Magazine in April 1934) and the Sudan Survey Department, the expedition set off in January 1933. Although they did not find the oasis, Wingate saw the expedition as an opportunity to test his endurance in a very harsh physical environment and also his organisational and leadership abilities.
Return to the UK, 1933, and marriage in 1935
On his return to the UK in 1933, Wingate was posted to Bulford on Salisbury Plain and was heavily involved in retraining, as British artillery units were being mechanised. On the sea journey home from Egypt he met Lorna Moncrieff Patterson, who was 16 years old and travelling with her mother. They were married two years later, on 24 January 1935.
Palestine and the Special Night Squads
In 1936 Wingate was assigned to the British Mandate of Palestine to a staff officer position and became an intelligence officer. From his arrival he saw the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine as being a religious duty toward the literal fulfillment of Christian prophecy and he immediately put himself into absolute alliance with Jewish political leaders.
Palestinian Arab guerrillas had at the time of his arrival begun a campaign of attacks against both British mandate officials and Jewish communities, which were part of the Arab Revolt of 1936–39.
Wingate became politically involved with a number of Zionist leaders, and became an ardent Zionist, despite not being Jewish. He always returned to Kibbutz En Harod — because he felt familiar with the biblical judge Gideon, who fought in this area, and used it himself as a military base. He formulated the idea of raising small assault units of British-led Jewish commandos, armed with grenades and light infantry small arms, to combat the Arab revolt. Wingate took his idea personally to Archibald Wavell, who was then the commander of British forces in Palestine. After Wavell gave his permission, Wingate convinced the Zionist Jewish Agency and the leadership of Haganah, the Jewish armed group.
In June 1938 the new British commander, General Haining, gave his permission to create the Special Night Squads, armed groups formed of British and Haganah volunteers. The Jewish Agency helped pay salaries and other costs of the Haganah personnel.
Wingate trained, commanded and accompanied them on their patrols. The units frequently ambushed Arab saboteurs who attacked oil pipelines of the Iraq Petroleum Company, raiding border villages the attackers had used as bases. In these raids Wingate's men sometimes imposed severe collective punishments on the village inhabitants that were criticized by Zionist leaders as well as Wingate's British superiors. Wingate disliked Arabs, once shouting at Hagana fighters after a June 1938 attack on a village on the border between Mandatory Palestine and Lebanon, "I think you are all totally ignorant in your Ramat Yochanan [the training base for the Hagana] since you do not even know the elementary use of bayonets when attacking dirty Arabs: how can you put your left foot in front?" But the brutal tactics proved effective in quelling the uprising, and Wingate was awarded the DSO in 1938.
However, his deepening direct political involvement with the Zionist cause and an incident where he spoke publicly in favour of the formation of a Jewish state during his leave in Britain, caused his superiors in Palestine to remove him from command. He was so deeply associated with political causes in Palestine that his superiors considered him compromised as an intelligence officer in the country. He was promoting his own agenda rather than that of the army or the government.
In May 1939, he was transferred back to Britain. Wingate became a hero of the Yishuv (the Jewish Community), and was loved by leaders such as Zvi Brenner and Moshe Dayan who had trained under him, and who claimed that Wingate had "taught us everything we know."
Wingate's political attitudes toward Zionism were heavily influenced by his Plymouth Brethren religious views and belief in certain eschatological doctrines.
Ethiopia and the Gideon Force
At the outbreak of World War II, Wingate was the commander of an anti-aircraft unit in Britain. He repeatedly made proposals to the army and government for the creation of a Jewish army in Palestine which would rule over the area and its Arab population in the name of the British. Eventually his friend Wavell, by this time commander-in-chief of Middle East Command which was based in Cairo, invited him to Sudan to begin operations against Italian occupation forces in Ethiopia. Under William Platt, the British commander in Sudan, he created the Gideon Force, a guerrilla force composed of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian soldiers. The force was named after the biblical judge Gideon, who defeated a large force with a tiny band. Wingate invited a number of veterans of the Haganah SNS to join him. With the blessing of the Emperor of Ethiopia, Haile Selassie, the group began to operate in February 1941. Wingate was temporarily promoted to lieutenant colonel and put in command. He again insisted on leading from the front and accompanied his troops. The Gideon Force, with the aid of local resistance fighters, harassed Italian forts and their supply lines while the regular army took on the main forces of the Italian army. The small Gideon Force of no more than 1,700 men took the surrender of about 20,000 Italians toward the end of the campaign. At the end of the fighting, Wingate and the men of the Gideon Force linked with the force of Lt. Gen. Alan Cunningham which had advanced from Kenya to the south and accompanied the emperor in his triumphant return to Addis Ababa in May. Wingate was mentioned in dispatches in April 1941 and was awarded a second DSO in December.
With the end of the East African Campaign on 4 June 1941, Wingate was removed from command of the now-dismantled Gideon Force and his rank was reduced to that of major. During the campaign he was irritated that British authorities ignored his request for decorations for his men and obstructed his efforts to obtain back pay and other compensation for them. He left for Cairo and wrote an official report which was extremely critical of his commanders, fellow officers, government officials and many others. Wingate was also angry that his efforts had not been praised by authorities, and that he had been forced to leave Abyssinia without having said farewell to Emperor Selassie. Wingate was most concerned about British attempts to stifle Ethiopian freedom, writing that attempts to raise future rebellions amongst populations must be honest ones and should appeal to justice.
Soon after, he contracted malaria. He sought treatment from a local doctor instead of army medical staff because he was afraid that the illness would give his detractors another further excuse to undermine him. This doctor gave him a large supply of the drug Atabrine, which can produce as a side-effect depression if taken in high dosages. Already depressed over the official response to his Abyssinian command, and sick with malaria, Wingate attempted suicide by stabbing himself in the neck It was only prompt action by another officer that saved him.
Wingate was sent to Britain to recuperate. A highly edited version of his report was passed through Wingate's political supporters in London to Winston Churchill. Consequent to this, Leo Amery, the Secretary of State for India contacted Wavell, now Commander-in-Chief in India commanding the South-East Asian Theatre to enquire if there were any chance of employing Wingate in the Far East. On 27 February 1942, Wingate, far from pleased with his posting as a "supernumary major without staff grading", left Britain for Rangoon.
Chindits and the first long-range jungle penetration mission
On Wingate's arrival in March 1942 in the Far East, he was appointed colonel once more by General Wavell, and was ordered to organise guerrilla units to fight behind Japanese lines. However, the precipitous collapse of Allied defences in Burma forestalled further planning, and Wingate flew back to India in April, where he began to promote his ideas for jungle long-range penetration units.
Intrigued by Wingate's theories, Wavell gave Wingate a brigade of troops, the (Indian 77th Infantry Brigade), from which he created a jungle long-range penetration unit. 77 Brigade was eventually named the Chindits, a corrupted version of the name of a mythical Burmese lion, the chinthe. By August 1942 he had set up a training centre at Dhana near Saugor district in Madhya Pradesh and attempted to toughen up the men by having them camp in the Indian jungle during the rainy season. This proved disastrous, as the result was a very high sick rate among the men. In one battalion 70% of the men went absent from duty due to illness, while a Gurkha battalion was reduced from 750 men to 500. Many of the men were replaced in September 1942 by new drafts of personnel from elsewhere in the army.
Meanwhile his direct manner of dealing with fellow officers and superiors, along with eccentric personal habits, won him few friends among the officer corps; he would consume raw onions because he thought they were healthy, scrub himself with a rubber brush instead of bathing and greet visitors to his tent while completely naked. Wavell's political connections in Britain and his patronage (who admired his work in the Abyssinian campaign) protected him from closer scrutiny.
The original 1943 Chindit operation was supposed to be a coordinated plan with the field army. When the offensive into Burma by the rest of the army was cancelled, Wingate persuaded Wavell to be allowed to proceed into Burma anyway, arguing the need to disrupt any Japanese attack on Sumprabum as well as to gauge the utility of long-range jungle penetration operations. Wavell eventually gave his consent to Operation Longcloth.
Wingate set out from Imphal on 12 February 1943, with the Chindits organised into eight separate columns to cross the Chindwin river. The force met with initial success in putting one of the main railways in Burma out of action. But afterward, Wingate led his force deep into Burma and then over the Irrawaddy river. Once the Chindits had crossed, they found conditions very different from that suggested by the intelligence they had received. The area was dry and inhospitable, criss-crossed by motor roads which the Japanese were able to use to good effect, particularly in interdicting supply drops to the Chindits who soon began to suffer severely from exhaustion and shortages of water and food.
On 22 March Eastern Army HQ ordered Wingate to withdraw his units back to India. Wingate and his senior commanders considered a number of options to achieve this but all were threatened by the fact that with no major army offensive in progress, the Japanese would be able to focus their attention on destroying the Chindit force. Eventually they agreed to retrace their steps to the Irrawaddy, since the Japanese would not expect this, and then disperse to make attacks on the enemy as they returned to the Chindwin. By mid-March the Japanese had three infantry divisions chasing the Chindits, who were eventually trapped inside the bend of the Shweli River by Japanese forces. Unable to cross the river intact and still reach British lines, the Chindit force was forced to split into small groups to evade enemy forces. The latter paid great attention to preventing air resupply of Chindit columns, as well as hindering their mobility by removing boats from the Irrawaddy, Chindwin and Mu rivers and actively patrolling the river banks. Continually harassed by the Japanese, the force returned to India by various routes during the spring of 1943 in groups ranging from single individuals to whole columns: some directly, others via a roundabout route from China. Casualties were high; the force lost approximately one-third of its total strength.
Death in India
On 24 March 1944, Wingate flew to assess the situations in three Chindit-held bases in Burma. On his return, flying from Imphal to Lalaghat, the USAAF B-25H-1-NA Mitchell bomber, 43-4242, of the 1st Air Commando Group in which he was flying crashed into jungle-covered hills in the present-day state of Manipur in northeast India, where he died alongside nine others. In place of Wingate, Brigadier (later Lt.-Gen.) Walter Lentaigne was appointed to overall command of LRP forces in the rank of acting Major-General; he flew out of Burma to assume command as Japanese forces began their assault on Imphal. Command of Lentaigne's 111 Brigade in Burma was assigned to Lt. Col. 'Jumbo' Morris.
Wingate and the nine other crash victims were initially buried in a common grave close to the crash site near the village of Bishnupur in the present-day state of Manipur in India. The bodies were charred beyond recognition, hence individuals could not be identified under medical practices of the day, as identification from dental records was not possible. Since seven of the ten crash victims, including both pilots, were Americans, all ten bodies were exhumed in 1947 and reburied in Imphal, India and yet again exhumed in 1950 and flown to Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, USA, for reburial. The exhumation was possible courtesy of an amicable three-way agreement between the governments of India, Britain and the US, and in accordance with the families' wishes.
Orde Charles Wingate's Timeline
February 26, 1903
Nainital, Nainital, Uttarakhand, India
March 24, 1944
Bishnupur, Bankura, West Bengal, India
later exhumed and reburied in Arlington National Cemetery Arlington, Virginia, United States