Help me trace a chindit

Discussion in 'Searching for Someone & Military Genealogy' started by Brownhound, Feb 27, 2013.

  1. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Kev,

    There is one book written by a 45 Recce soldier. it is called 'To Be a Chindit' by Phil Sharpe. You can pick it up on Amazon I'm sure.


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  2. Brownhound

    Brownhound Junior Member

    Hi steve
    Thqnks for the recommedation ill look now.
  3. Hebridean Chindit

    Hebridean Chindit Lost in review... Patron

    Why is so hard to find information on my great grandads unit. The 45th reconnaissance regiment? When information on other regiments in the chi dits second expidition is quiet easy to get hold of??

    It's all so much luck of the draw - some material has been misfiled, some "lost", some has geniunly been mislaid, or even thrown-out...
    Sometimes it is just where they had it so rough that none of them wished to tell the story...
    There has been a vast increase in accounts in recent years where some have decided to tell their story "before it's too late..."
    With smaller units there were less to tell the tale, and with the passage of time, less to tell it...
  4. Brownhound

    Brownhound Junior Member

    Hey everyone just looking through the diaries ive found out my great grandad trooper Herbert Clifford Thornton was in squad no III. Z squad B squadron 51st training reg RAC Catterick camp. Yorks 1941it was in one of his diaries 1941
  5. ethan

    ethan Member

    Damn- I'm sorry I missed this thread. Great to see Astell's report (I've pm'd you!).

    Brownhound- (I pm'd you as well) there's a detailed account of the fight in Michael Calvert's excellent book 'Prisoners of Hope'. I seem to remember he describes it as one of his worst experiences.
  6. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi ethan,

    I've replied to this evening's pm.

  7. Hill

    Hill Member

    Hello Kev, my mother's brother was part of 45th Reconnaissance, 16th Brigade and died on 18th April 1944, the same day your great grandfather went missing in action. I think he was part of 45th and/or 54th Columns, although I'm not really too sure what that means. I think a column was approximately 300 men? He was Lt Robert Butler (known as Bob), so I imagine he and your great grandfather knew each other - might they have been fighting together on the 18th April? I'm not really sure how closely the 45th Reconnaissance would have remained been once they'd joined the Chindits. Perhaps, someone could advise on this?

    I only found out yesterday that Bob is buried in Taukyan Cemetry - I wish my mum had known that (she died a few years ago). I have some information you may be interested in. About 10 years ago, my mum attended a Chindits reunion where she met Bob's batman - a lovely Londoner of Italian descent - I think his surname was Bartoli. Anyway, after the reunion he wrote my mum a quite detailed account of the 16th Brigade's march into Burma and the subsequent fighting - it's a poignant and moving account. Mr Bartoli told her that his whole unit had been wiped out on the 18th and that he'd only survived because he'd been injured in the previous nights fighting and returned to England. I don't know whether Mr Bartoli is still alive or whether he knew your grandfather. I also don't know if you'll ever see this as you requested information a long time ago now, but please get in touch if you'd like me to dig out the letter. Best wishes, Clare
    Mark99 and Rich Payne like this.
  8. 4jonboy

    4jonboy Daughter of a 56 Recce Patron

    Hello Clare and welcome to the forum.
    Kev hasn't been on the forum since March 2013. I will send him a private message and hope he picks up a notification by e-mail. Worth trying.

  9. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Clare,

    45 & 54 Columns were sent over on loan to 77th Brigade which was led by Brigadier Calvert in 1944. They were used as perimeter patrol groups in the jungle. Around the time of 18th April they had a serious engagement with the Japanese at Henu Chaung, a watercourse or stream near the famous Chindit stronghold of 'White City'. It is possible that this is where Robert was killed?

    I can tell you which actual column he was in, it was 45 Column. Attached is a large image, showing movements of some 16th Brigade units in March 1944. Because of the large size of the page, I have also attached a close up, which states that he led a group of men that returned to the Chindit stronghold of 'Aberdeen' on the 29th March. Aberdeen was the stronghold most associated with 16th Brigade and was where Fergusson's men went for sanctuary and later to fly out of Burma.

    Hope this information will help you a little.

    Best wishes


    IMG_2328 copy.JPG Butler close up.jpg
  10. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron

    Lesley, I also noticed that Kev hadn’t been around lately, hope your PM works.

    For Clare and anyone with an interest in the 45th there is an article that may be of interest in my Reconnaissance Journal post, see Vol. 2 No. 1, part 1:-

    Page 7 – “Wingate’s Reconnaissance Regiment – The story of the 45th”.

    Also from “This Band of Brothers”

    The 45th Reconnaissance Regiment
    The Regiment was formed in January 1941, mainly from the 134th, 135th and 136th Brigade Anti-tank Companies of the 45th (West Country) Division. The 45th sailed for India in August 1942, and there joined the 70th Division. When, the following summer, the 70th Division was chosen as General Wingate’s “Chindit” force, the 45th Reconnaissance Regiment elected to give up their vehicles and reconnaissance role, and go into the adventure in the only way possible, as infantry. In February and May of1944 the Regiment fought as part of the Long Range Penetration Group behind the Japanese lines in Burma. Officially disbanded in October 1944, the Regiment was turned into the 2nd South Staffs. In the following spring most of the officers and a large number of other ranks of the old 45th Reconnaissance Regiment volunteered for a parachute role and became the 16th Parachute Regiment together. Many of these officers volunteered to fly in and drop on British POW camps in the Japanese lines in August of 1945. Commanding Officers of the Regiment were; Lt-Col. WDC Trotter, Lt-Col. CRT Cumberlege, Lt-Col. GH Astell, MC.

    Perhaps some new information for you.
    4jonboy likes this.
  11. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron


    A couple of other things, attached is the London Gazette entry for Robert's commission into the Recce Corps. Also, forum member Bucklt has photographed all graves at Taukkyan War Cemetery, amongst many others. His details for contact are on this thread, if you email him he will send you a photograph of Robert's grave I'm sure.

    View attachment Butler Commission.pdf
  12. Hill

    Hill Member

    Thank you so much for responding. I really appreciate it - I thought it quite likely that no one would, given the age of the thread. Thanks Lesley for sending Kev a PM, hopefully he will receive it.

    Thanks Steve for the confirmation of Bob's column and the role the 45th and 54th columns. (I had noticed that they tend to be mentioned together so it makes sense now knowing that they were fulfilling the same role.) I will try and get a large format printout of the troop movement image you've attached. Yes, I think it's very likely that Henu Chaung was where Bob was killed. My sister has told me Mr Bartoli said he was killed near White City.

    Thanks also Tony for the background on the 45th Reconnaissance Regiment and particularly for the Reconnaissance Journals, which I'm looking forward to reading. I didn't know when Bob was commissioned so that's interesting information Steve, I was beginning to wonder where he was prior to 1944, so might be able to put this together now, along with the information Tony has given on the Regiment.

    I emailed the Taukyan Cemetery for a photo of Bob's grave a couple of days ago when I found out he was buried there. I wish I'd found this out earlier because my mother would have visited and it would have finally put her mind at rest. Mr Bartoli assured her that he was killed and she was initially relieved, but later worried he might have been sparing her. It never occurred to any of us that he could have a grave - an informal one in the jungle perhaps, but not in a cemetery. Who carried out the work of moving the bodies of these soldiers and who cares for the cemetery? Respect and thanks also to forum member Buckit responsible for the photographic project. I needed to see the photograph to be sure he had a grave.

    Thanks again everyone.
    4jonboy likes this.
  13. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Clare,

    Many casualties from the Burma campaign have no known grave, that is, none that could be recognised or recovered after the war was over. These casualties are remembered upon the Rangoon Memorial, the large stone monument that forms the centre-piece at Taukkyan.

    For a Chindit to have an individual grave at Taukkyan, would in the main suggest that he fell close to, or in one of the strongholds such as 'White City' or 'Blackpool'. This would have given time for his burial and for the location to be recorded by the senior officer present. After the war the Imperial Graves Commission and Army Graves Department identified and preserved these burials in the original location or elsewhere until the cemeteries we know of today were constructed.

    This perhaps adds more weight to the likelihood that Robert was killed near 'White City'. If you would like me to send you the large file which shows his name, then just pm me and we can organise this.
  14. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

  15. Hill

    Hill Member

    Thanks for the photo Steve. Yes I can recognise him from the blurry image. He looks like he does in most of the photos we have of him - healthy and well fed (which makes me happy) and nothing like the man in the last known photo we have of him. It's taken at one of the strongholds and he is skin and bone - a dead man walking.

    I've had a look at the other thread you linked to which is also very interesting. I'm currently trying to draw up a timeline for him, cross referencing all background info I can find on Operation Thursday with all the info you and Tony 56 have given me. Just trying to pin down and get all this new information a bit straighter before my brain melts down.

    I have a question for Eddie Chandler re one of his posts and not sure if he'll pick it up here. Do you think he'd mind me sending him a PM?

    Will email you soon re the traces map soon. Really appreciate your support with my search.
  16. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

    Hi Clare,

    Good to hear we have all helped in building up a picture. Eddie won't mind you contacting him i'm sure.

  17. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member Patron

  18. Tony56

    Tony56 Member Patron


    For some more information regarding 45 Recce and other regiments in the Burma campaign have a look at these copies of the Reconnaissance Journal:

    Vol.1 No.4 Part 1 (page 147)

    Vol.2 No.1 Part 1 (page 7)

    Vol.2 No.3 Part 3 (page 111)

    Vol. 2 No. 4 Part 5 (page 167)

    Vol.3 No.1 Part 3 (page29) This also has the officer’s photo on page 23

    Hope you find something of interest.
  19. Hill

    Hill Member

    Fantastic, thank you - I'm going to be busy!
  20. ollie c

    ollie c Member

    Hi everybody,

    My grandfather was a Chindit and I have only recently found this forum. Everything I've read so far is extremely informative and interesting so thank you for everything that everyone's provided.

    I have a diary that my grandfather kept but he intentionally left out dates and place names due to writing it whilst the war was still taking place. I have quite a lot of information on him and know that he was part of the 45th reconnaissance regiment and that he fought in Burma in April 1944 however I am having difficulty determining more precise information of which battle he was involved in and where.

    I am due to go to Burma at the end of the month and am hoping to get to White City where he spent some time after being shot but I would really like to visit other places he may have been.

    So I am hoping someone here can point me in the right direction in order to find out further info.

    If it helps, he does say that the day after landing in Burma (i think he landed in Aberdeen but can not confirm this) he pushed off to join Brig Calvert where not much happened during the next few days, then met the Brig and had a conference to plan the coming battle. Later in his account he states that the whole Bde moved south and then east to set an ambush and the day after "packed up again, dumped our packs and set off for our last and fiercest battle". He goes on to say that the battle ground was not of their choosing but that they were facing north and half a mile away to the left was White City.
    This was where my grandfather was shot and I believe a Major White won the MC here. He also states that Aberdeen was approximately 26 miles away and that Broadway was to the north east.
    After this he spent a long time trying to get to safety and I know that he was part of a group that constructed a makeshift airstrip and were rescued, transferred to White City before being taken to Aberdeen and then finally to Assam.
    Regarding dates, the only thing I know is that this took place in April 1944.

    My grandfather's name was Peter Lionel Shore Cave and I believe he was a captain at the time.

    That you in advance if anybody's able to help.


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