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Archibald Wavell remains one of the great Allied commanders of the early phases of World War II. In fact, between June 1940 and June 1941, he was the only British theatre commander actively engaging Axis forces. At a time when the British Expeditionary Force had been expelled from the European continent and the home isles were preparing as best they could for the threat of a Nazi invasion, Wavell was conducting campaigns across nine countries and parts of two continents. In those 12 months, Wavell planned and directly oversaw a multitude of campaigns, from the hugely successful winter campaigns against the Italians in the Western Desert and the conquest of Italian East Africa, through the Iraqi revolt, the invasion of Vichy Syria and Lebanon and the ill-fated British involvement in Greece to the unsuccessful attempts to break the siege of Tobruk that led to his replacement in June 1941. He then took command of all Allied forces in the Burma theatre, leading the desperate and doomed defence against the Japanese offensive. While Wavell's great victories are often overshadowed by those of other commanders later in the war, this should not detract from his proven abilities as a strategist and tactician. This book tells the complete story of Wavell's wartime exploits and examines his strengths and weaknesses as a commander.
This gripping study offers key insights into the tactics, leadership, combat performance and subsequent reputations of six representative Chindit and Japanese infantry units involved in three pivotal actions that hastened Japan's defeat in Burma during World War II.In order to keep China in the war against the Japanese, the Western Allies knew they had to return to Northern Burma. Colonel Orde Wingate, a military maverick and proponent of guerrilla warfare, believed that a different type of British infantryman was required for this role - the Chindit, indoctrinated with special training - to re-enter the jungles and mountains of Northern Burma in order to combat the victorious Japanese forces there. The Chindits' opponents would include the 18th Division, one of Imperial Japan's most seasoned formations, which by 1941 had already accumulated as much operational experience as most Anglo-American divisions would acquire in the entire 1939-45 war.In a host of encounters the two sides clashed repeatedly in the harsh conditions of the Burmese jungle; the intended role and subsequent operational performance of the Chindits remains fraught with controversy today.
Orde Wingate rose to fame by creating the Chindits in Burma in 1943. He is an extremely important figure in military history, and deserves just as much attention as Alanbrooke, Montgomery, and Auchinleck. Unlike them, however, he always operated outside the accepted etiquette and the formal chain of command. He was a maverick and misfit, and he held to the belief that the type of mass warfare demonstrated on the Western Front (1914-18) had very little to do with the warfare of the future. He believed that the latter would require an 'indirect approach', in which heavily lumbering armies would be exquisitely vulnerable to small groups of highly motivated, mobile and well-armed guerrillas. This book covers Wingate's experiences in pre-war Palestine, in Ethiopia in 1941 (where he formed an irregular guerrilla unit to harrass the Italian garrisons) and in World War II Burma, where the two Chindit campaigns would be his apotheosis.
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