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Operation Longcloth file photo [14020]

Operation Longcloth

8 Feb 1943 - 27 Apr 1943


ww2dbaseIn late 1942, Archibald Wavell intended in launching a multi-pronged invasion from India into Burma, one of which involved Orde Wingate's brigade of irregulars. Named "Chindits", which resulted from Wingate's mistake while pronouncing "Chinthe" (Burmese for lion), these men were trained in jungle warfare deep inside enemy territory. The invasion into Arakan Peninsula, Burma was launched on 21 Dec 1942, and by Feb 1943, meeting no success, Wavell was thinking about canceling the invasion. Wingate, however, was able to convince Wavell to continue with the plans to deploy his Chindits. Wingate's force was ordered to cross into Burma on the following day, which crossed the India-Burma border at Tonhe on 13 Feb, followed by the crossing of the Chindwin River on the following day. Divided into two groups, Northern Group and Southern Group, each with multiple columns, they destroyed railroads, bridges, and other infrastructure important to the Japanese war effort. To establish the deception that the force was much larger than it was, ie. forming the impression that it was a full invasion rather than a raid, large scale daylight air drops were conducted, while tactical bombers struck key Japanese defense installations across the area. In late Mar, as the force had ventured to the limit of air support, and with the increasing risk that the Japanese would deploy forces behind them to block movements back toward India, Wingate, who personally led Operation Longcloth, called off the operation. The return trip to India was uncoordinated, and most columns had to break up into small elements in order to do so.

ww2dbaseOf the 3,000 men of the 77th Brigade that embarked on Operation Longcloth, only 2,182 returned; 450 of those lost were killed in action, while the rest were listed as missing in action or captured. Of the two forces, the Southern Group suffered the most, with only 260 of its original 1,000 returning to India. Of the 2,182 returned, only 600 of them were in good condition to continue to serve; the remainder were invalided out.

ww2dbaseMany critics of this operation noted that far too many men were sacrificed on this mission for achieving so little. Wingate, however, argued that the morale boost achieved by this operation could not be easily measured.

Frank McLynn, The Burma Campaign

Last Major Update: Dec 2011

Operation Longcloth Interactive Map


A column of Chindit irregular troops crossing a river in Burma, Feb-Mar 1943

Operation Longcloth Timeline

7 Feb 1943 Archibald Wavell visited Orde Wingate's Chindit headquarters 7 miles north of Imphal, India. Wingate was able to convince Wavell to continue the Chindit operations despite the fact that the offensive into Arakan, Burma was soon to be canceled.
8 Feb 1943 Brigadier Orde Wingate's first Chindit expedition departed from Imphal in India. The expedition's mission was to create havoc through ambush and sabotage behind the Japanese lines in Burma. The operation was entrusted to the 77th Infantry Brigade, comprising the 13th King's (Liverpool) Regiment, 3/2nd Ghurka Rifles, 142 Commando Company, 2nd Burma Rifles, eight RAF sections, a Brigade Signal section and a mule transport company.
9 Feb 1943 The first Chindit operation began. Brigadier Orde Wingate took a force of 3,000 troops into Burma to conduct a guerrilla-style campaign behind Japanese lines.
13 Feb 1943 The Northern Group of the Chindits crossed the Indian-Burmese border at Tonhe.
14 Feb 1943 Orde Wingate's first Chindit expedition, which had set off in great secrecy four days earlier, reached and crossed the Chinwin River badly behind schedule. Here, an agitated Wingate would discover that an RAF supply drop, which included letters from home, had fallen into Japanese hands, compromising security.
22 Feb 1943 The Northern Group of the Chindits reached Tonmakeng, Burma. Orde Wingate ordered an attack on a nearby Japanese garrison at Sinlamaung.
25 Feb 1943 After not being able to locate Sinlamaung, Burma in the past three days, the Chindit unit assigned to attack the Japanese garrison there finally found the village. They found the Japanese garrison had already departed, however.
1 Mar 1943 The Northern Group of the Chindits reached Zibyutaungdan, Burma and began to move into the Mu valley.
2 Mar 1943 The Northern Group of the Chindits marched 20 miles along a road northeast of Pinlebu, Burma.
3 Mar 1943 The No. 4 Column of the Northern Group of the Chindits was ambushed and was nearly annihilated; Orde Wingate ordered the column to return to India. Meanwhile, the two columns of the Southern Group were ambushed by Japanese troops in the Mu valley after dark; both columns lost much equipment, while one of them was nearly wiped out.
6 Mar 1943 The Chindits reached Wuntho-Indaw railway in Burma near Nankan and Pinlebu. They fought off the Japanese units guarding key points of the railway and proceeded to destroy tracks, blasted cliffs to cause rocks to fall onto tracks, mined rail bridges, and destroyed other rail bridges.
10 Mar 1943 The No. 1 Column of the Northern Group of the Chindits destroyed the rail bridge at Kyaikthin, Burma and crossed the Irrawaddy River with the help of locals.
13 Mar 1943 In Burma, the No. 3 Column of the Northern Group of the Chindits was attacked by Japanese forces whose conservative probing attacks failed to eliminate the numerically inferior Allied irregulars.
15 Mar 1943 Chindits under British Major Calvert and Major Fergusson crossed the Irrawaddy River in Burma.
17 Mar 1943 The main body of the Northern Group of the Chindits arrived at the confluence of the Irrawaddy and Shweli Rivers in Burma; they began to cross at nightfall.
18 Mar 1943 The main body of the Northern Group of the Chindits completed the crossing of the Irrawaddy River.
19 Mar 1943 The largest air drop in support of Operation Longcloth in Burma was conducted, delivering 100 tons of supplies to the Chindits.
24 Mar 1943 British General Orde Wingate was ordered by his superiors to withdraw his Chindits from Burma.
25 Mar 1943 The No. 5 Column of the Chindits, under Bernard Fergusson, made rendezvous with Orde Wingate's main body at Shaukpin Chaung river bed in Burma.
26 Mar 1943 British General Wingate ordered his Chindits in Burma to withdraw.
28 Mar 1943 The main body of Chindit forces reached Inywa, Burma at 1600 hours.
7 Apr 1943 Orde Wingate and his small group of Chindits began to march for the Irrawaddy River in Burma en route back to India.
13 Apr 1943 Orde Wingate and his small group of Chindits crossed the Irrawaddy River in Burma by rafts built with locals' help. The final group of men were left behind on the east bank of the river as rearguard as the Japanese attack on this group intensified.
14 Apr 1943 The No. 3 Column of the Chindits crossed the Chindwin River in Burma and soon became the first column to return to India.
23 Apr 1943 Orde Wingate and his small group of Chindits spotted the Chindwin River in Burma from a high spot; they were about 30 miles away from the river.
24 Apr 1943 The No. 5 Column of the Chindits reached the Chindwin River in Burma.
26 Apr 1943 The No. 5 Column of the Chindits arrived in Imphal, India. Only 95 men of the original force of 318 returned.
27 Apr 1943 Orde Wingate and his small group of Chindits reached the Chindwin River in Burma. They were able to cross it later in the day with the help of Gurkha Rifles men from the western bank of the river.
20 May 1943 In a press conference, Orde Wingate noted the achievement by Operation Longcloth in the areas of propaganda and morale.

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Visitor Submitted Comments

1. Noel Edwards says:
3 Sep 2014 11:54:13 PM

Does anyone know of a list of soldiers in southern group and columns?
2. Anonymous says:
22 Feb 2016 11:13:25 AM

Id love to know more of what my grandad did and where he was .. All I know is he was from the Royal Warwickshire's and joined the Chindits he was a Bren Gunner and was a part of the first expedition he also spoke about fighting with the Gurkers ... If anyone can help that would be great
3. David Langdown says:
3 May 2016 07:52:44 AM

I am trying to find a list of men who were in LONGCLOTH.
My late uncle LESLIE LANGDOWN was in the Chindits, but i cannot find out which group he was with. He did tell me that he was driving a Mule. Where can i find any information.
4. David Langdown says:
3 May 2016 07:56:14 AM

Recently i saw a picture of "Slouch hatted" soldiers fighting at Three Pagoda Pass on the Burma-Thai border. I am interested as to who these troops were as i live in the area.
5. Sai Tun Zaw says:
8 Sep 2021 03:46:02 AM

Chinthe" is not tiger. It call lion
(Burmese for Chinthe = lion, Tiger = kyar)
6. Commenter identity confirmed C. Peter Chen says:
9 Sep 2021 10:50:01 AM

Thank you Sai Tun Zaw, we have made the correction in the article!

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Operation Longcloth Photo Gallery
A column of Chindit irregular troops crossing a river in Burma, Feb-Mar 1943

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