At the same time as British forces were struggling in Normandy, and the Fourteenth Army was driving back the Japanese in India at the battles of Imphal and Kohima, a very different force was fighting its own battle way behind the Japanese lines in Burma. The brainchild of the unorthodox Major-General Orde Wingate, the Chindits launched their first long-range operations behind Japanese lines in early 1943, and in early 1944, after Wingate’s death in March, a second more ambitious operation was launched. Twenty thousand men in six brigades, broken down into a series of individual columns of 500 or so men, were inserted behind enemy lines to seize vital airfields, and disrupt the lines of communication to the rear of the Japanese forces.

Colour Sergeant Tom Proudfoot was one of the Chindits, and served with 2nd Battalion, Queen’s Royal Regiment during the operation.

888437 C/Sgt Proudfoot
2nd Queens Royal Regiment
India Command

Dear Bobby,

At last I am able to write and tell you of our expedition. I am now out of Burma, and recuperating after a most thrilling, hazardous, and gruelling trip. We were members of the ‘Special Force’ until recently commanded by the late General Wingate. We set off and marched behind the enemy to the extent of 300 miles. At the initial stage of our trec [sic] we had to cut away every yard of jungle growth, we walked, or I should say, crawled 21¾ miles over mountains, in 69 marching hours, and climbed over 14,000 feet carrying a pack weighing about 70lbs so you can see how we at times could only do three miles a day.

We crossed rivers which were often waist high. After crossing the Chindwin without much trouble we then settled down to do some really useful commando-cum-guerilla warfare. We blew up bridges, roads, railways, damaged airfields, laid a few ambushes and we were in turn ambushed ourselves, but managed to escape. Our policy was to harass the Jap so that he did not know where or when we were going to strike, and because we in our party were small we fought the Jap when it suited us not when it suited him. Our last ambush was very successful. My guns caught the first trucks loaded with Japs, and cut them to pieces. He brought up reinforcements and put in a counter-attack which looked rather ‘sticky’ for a time, but we managed to slip away, only losing five men killed, and several wounded for the Jap total of 60 killed, and many wounded. In all we walked during our operation behind the enemy lines to the extent of 500 odd miles. It was a great strain mentally as well as physical as you can well imagine. Every track and village held for us the possibility of being ambushed and shot up so we avoided these, except when we travelled in the dead of night.

We were hunted as criminals. After we had been ‘inside’ for several months we were flown out in heaven sent planes. We were also supplied with food, clothing, equipment and ammunition which we needed by air, and we all pay tribute to the pilots, and crew, because they never once let us down. They also lifted our wounded after a battle, and flew them to hospital. I am in a rest camp for the moment and expecting a leave soon.

Since we came out people have doing everything for us, giving us what we have missed in the way of luxuries during the last few months. I hope Bertha and new arrival are both well, I expect it will have happened before you have this letter, or have I forgotten the date? However good luck to her…

You know I don’t think that it will be too long now before I come home as all the five years abroad men have gone to Blighty, in my opinion we should be home by this time next year. Today I have had a thorough medical inspection, and strangely enough I have turned out one of the fittest men in our bunch as well as one of the oldest. Our physical category was A1 plus higher than that demanded by any other force. We had a commando with us who said commando work was a ‘piece of cake’ to ours!

Cheerio Bobby. I am trying to catch the post. Excuse horrible scribble.

Regards to Bertha and children(?)