April 9, 2018

1. The War in Burma

A. Fraser

I read a WorldWarTwo memoir, Quartered Safe Out Here: A Recollection of the War in Burma. The author, George MacDonald Fraser, became a popular novelist in the 1970s, and didn’t write his war memoir until 1992. It’s an excellent memoir, both humorous and poetic.

The Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941. At about the same time, they attacked British forces in Hong Kong, Singapore, Burma, etc. When they defeated the British in Singapore and the Malay Peninsula, they took 90,000 British prisoners; Churchill called it the worst disaster in British military history. They had the British on the run in Burma, and drove them into India; it has been called the longest retreat in British history.

The Japanese advance was finally stopped in the spring of 1944 in eastern India, at the battles of Kohima and Imphal. Fraser calls these battles the greatest catastrophe in Japanese military history, with some 70,000 soldiers killed and wounded. After these battles, the tide turned, and the Japanese began retreating. “The allies would be closing inexorably from all sides — Americans in the Pacific, Australians in New Guinea and Borneo, Chinese in China and Korea, ourselves in Malaya and Siam.”

The Japanese were retreating on all fronts, but nonetheless Fraser and his comrades thought it would take several years to finish the war. The Japanese scorned surrender; they fought to the last bullet, the last man.

No one underestimated Jap: he might be a subhuman creature who tortured and starved prisoners of war to death, raped women captives, and used civilians for bayonet practice, but there was no braver soldier in the whole history of war, and if he fought to a finish....

As this passage shows, Fraser makes no concessions to Political Correctness. In fact, he often rails against it. His political views are staunchly conservative.

When the Japanese controlled Burma, they cut off the Burma Road, which had been used to carry supplies into China, supplies that the Chinese needed in their war with Japan. So the Allies decided to airlift supplies to China, flying “over the hump” (over the Himalayas) from northeast India to southern China.

Meanwhile, the Japanese had their own transportation plans. They wanted a railway from Rangoon to Bangkok. Both civilians and Allied prisoners were forced to work on the railway, which is sometimes called The Death Railway. Conditions for prisoners were always grim, but conditions on the railway were especially grim, and about 100,000 workers died. The railway required numerous bridges. A bridge project was the subject of David Lean’s movie The Bridge on the River Kwai, which was based on a novel by Pierre Boulle.

Fraser’s title (Quartered Safe Out Here) comes from a Kipling poem, “Gunga Din.” Kipling’s poems were well known to Fraser’s generation, and often recited from memory. Fraser writes,

It’s terribly trite, no doubt, but like most trite things it’s absolutely true: the best comment on infantry war, the best philosophy, and above all the best advice, was written in four lines by Rudyard Kipling. It isn’t jingoistic, it’s realistic; it has nothing to do with the higher questions of morality, but it has deep meaning for anyone who finds himself, as so many have done and will continue to do, facing the moment.

When first under fire and you’re wishful to duck,
Don’t look nor take heed at the man that is struck,
Be thankful you’re living, and trust to your luck,
And march to your front like a soldier.

Fraser joined the Burma campaign after the battles of Kohima and Imphal, and he fought during the last year of the war. He was only 19 when he was sent to Burma. In England, he was known as a cross-country runner, and he often makes allusions to sports.

Fraser’s family weren’t strangers to war:

Every generation of my people, as far back as we knew, had sent somebody to war, and my grandmother’s comment on Chamberlain’s speech on September 3, 1939, had been simply: “Well, the men will be going away again.” Her uncle had served in the Crimea, her brother had died in the Second Afghan, two of my aunts had lost sweethearts in the Great War, my father had been wounded in East Africa, and two uncles had been in the trenches; probably it was a not untypical record for a British family over a century.

When Fraser was in Burma, British forces in Burma were commanded by William Slim, whom Fraser saw once:

The biggest boost to morale was the burly man who came to talk to the assembled battalion by the lake shore — I’m not sure when, but it was unforgettable. Slim was like that: the only man I’ve ever seen who had a force that came out of him, a strength of personality that I have puzzled over since, for there was no apparent reason for it, unless it was the time and the place and my own state of mind. Yet others felt it too, and they were not impressionable men.

His appearance was plain enough: large, heavily built, grimfaced with that hard mouth and bulldog chin; the rakish Gurkha hat was at odds with the slung carbine and untidy trouser bottoms; he might have been a yard foreman who had become managing director, or a prosperous farmer who’d boxed in his youth. Nor was he an orator. There have been four brilliant speakers in my time: Churchill, Hitler, Martin Luther King, and Scargill; Slim was not in their street. His delivery was blunt, matter-of-fact, without gestures or mannerisms, only a lack of them.

William Slim

He knew how to make an entrance — or rather, he probably didn’t, and it came naturally. Frank Sinatra has the same technique, but in his case it may well be studied: no fanfare, no announcement, simply walking onstage while the orchestra are still settling down, and starting to sing. Slim emerged from under the trees by the lake shore, there was no nonsense of “gather round” or jumping on boxes; he just stood with his thumb hooked in his carbine sling and talked about how we had caught Jap off-balance and were going to annihilate him in the open; there was no exhortation or ringing clichés, no jokes or self-conscious use of barrack-room slang — when he called the Japs “bastards” it was casual and without heat. He was telling us informally what would be, in the reflective way of intimate conversation. And we believed every word — and it all came true.

I think it was that sense of being close to us, as though he were chatting offhand to an understanding nephew (not for nothing was he “Uncle Bill”) that was his great gift. It was a reminder of what everyone knew: that Slim had enlisted in 1914, fought in the trenches and at Gallipoli, and risen, without advantages, on his own merits; his accent was respectable, no more, and he couldn’t have talked down if he’d tried. You knew, when he talked of smashing Jap, that to him it meant not only arrows on a map but clearing bunkers and going in under shell-fire; that he had the head of a general with the heart of a private soldier. A friend of mine, in another division, thoughtlessly decorated his jeep with a skull he’d found: Slim snapped at him to remove it, and then added gently: “It might be one of our chaps, killed on the retreat.” He thought, he knew, at our level; it was that, and the sheer certainty that was built into every line of him, that gave Fourteenth Army its overwhelming confidence; what he promised, that he would surely do. And afterwards, when it was over and he spoke of what his army had done, it was always “you”, not even “we”, and never “I”.

Perhaps the most revealing story, not only about Slim but about what his army thought of him, tells how he was addressing a unit preparing to go into action. The magic must have worked again, for some enthusiast actually shouted: “We’ll follow you, general!” And Slim, with one of his rare smiles, called back: “Don’t you believe it. You’ll be a long way in front of me.”

Not many generals could have got away with that; one cannot imagine Monty saying it. The irony was that it wasn’t true; Slim almost got himself killed in the fighting for Meiktila. He has been called the best battlefield general since Wellington, which takes in some heavy competition, from Lee and Grant to Montgomery and Rommel. Certainly no general ever did more with less; in every way, he was one of the great captains.

After the war, Slim was Governor-General of Australia, and was involved with an Australian farm/camp for youngsters. Since 2007, several people who were at the farm have accused Slim of sexual abuse. Fraser, who died in 2008, doesn’t mention these charges.

The British Army in Burma was a multi-national force — Indians, Africans, Gurkhas from Nepal, Baluchs from what’s now Pakistan, etc. Fraser says, “Probably not even the legions of Rome embraced as many nationalities as Fourteenth Army.”

Fraser spent most of his time with the ten men in his “section.” The reader comes to know these men through Fraser’s lively descriptions. Most of these men were from Cumbria, near the border with Scotland; the regiment was called The Border Regiment. Fraser’s dialogue is written in Cumbrian dialect.1

When two members of the section are killed in combat, no one makes a speech, no one says anything.

It was not callousness or indifference or lack of feeling for two comrades who had been alive that morning and were now names for the war memorial; it was just that there was nothing to be said.

It was part of war; men died, more would die, that was past, and what mattered now was the business in hand; those who lived would get on with it. Whatever sorrow was felt, there was no point in talking or brooding about it, much less in making, for form’s sake, a parade of it. Better and healthier to forget it, and look to tomorrow.

The celebrated British stiff upper lip, the resolve to conceal emotion which is not only embarrassing and useless, but harmful, is just plain common sense.

One of the men who died was called Tich. His gear was placed on a ground sheet, and each soldier took something that they could use. For example, Fraser took Tich’s mug, since it was in better shape than his own, someone else took Tich’s rifle, etc. “At first I was rather shocked, supposing that it was a coldly practical, almost ghoulish proceeding.... But of course it had another purpose: without a word said, everyone was taking a memento of Tich.” Fraser says he had never heard of this custom, but he suspects it’s “as old as war.”

When the war is ending, and Fraser is going to India, he tries to say good-bye to his comrades, but they’re on a patrol. Just as Fraser is driving off, his comrades return, and call good-bye:

I wanted to shout back, but I couldn’t. I could only wave, as the truck gathered speed.... If I couldn’t call good-bye, there was something else I could do. It came to me as I looked back, the thought: you must never forget this moment. Fix it in your mind forever, because it’s the ending to a chapter of your life, and you’ll never see anything like it again. Salt it away in your memory, so that you’ll always be able to close your eyes and see the single file of dark green figures in the dusty sunlight, marching at ease, the bush-hats tilted, the rifles slung. That’s something you must always remember.

Despite the hardships and the danger, Fraser concludes,

Glad I was there; I wouldn’t have missed it for anything. A good thing to have done, and to have been, as Samuel Johnson so wisely observed. No regrets about it, and much gratitude.

B. The Chindits

When the Japanese controlled Burma, the British launched guerrilla forays into Burma. Their special-ops force was called The Chindits, and was led by Orde Wingate (the word “Chindit” comes from a mythical beast, statues of which were placed outside Burmese temples). Wingate had made his reputation fighting the Italians in Ethiopia, and fighting the Arabs in Palestine. Wingate advocated “deep penetration” behind enemy lines, with supplies dropped from planes. Wingate was known for his eccentricity: he walked around naked, or nearly so, with an alarm clock strapped to his wrist, and garlic tied around his neck. One might compare Wingate to Stonewall Jackson, who was also known for eccentricity, piety, and aggressive tactics.

Wingate (center) with Chindit leaders

Wingate’s Chindits suffered great hardships and heavy casualties. They had to carry some 70 pounds of gear, while often suffering from malaria, dysentery, etc. They had to kill their own mules for food, and they had to kill their own wounded men. It’s not clear whether the Chindits accomplished much. The railroad they damaged was repaired within a week.2

Chindits marching with their mules.
Note that many of the men aren’t wearing any pants
because they’re suffering from dysentery.

At any rate, the Chindits were celebrated in the press for marching through the jungle, and attacking the apparently-invincible Japanese. Since the first Chindit operation was considered a success, a second, larger operation was organized. During this second operation, Wingate was killed in a plane crash. The Chindits inspired an American force, Merrill’s Marauders, which also operated behind Japanese lines in Burma, and also had high casualties.3

C. Aung San

When the Japanese first entered Burma, there was an anti-British independence movement. The leader of this independence movement was Aung San, father of Aung San Suu Kyi. The Japanese supported this movement with arms, money, and training.

Aung San gradually realized that the Japanese were harsher than the British, and the Japanese were likely to lose the war. “The British merely sucked our blood,” one Burmese said, “but the Japanese ground our bones.” So the Burmese turned against the Japanese, and sided with the British. After the war, Burma became independent but Aung San, like Gandhi, was assassinated.

Aung San

2. Shakespeare in Burma

When Fraser was in Burma, he wrote to his parents, and asked them to send him Shakespeare’s Henry V. Since his comrades weren’t educated, he didn’t expect them to be interested in Shakespeare. But one of his comrades, a man named Hutton, borrowed the play, read for a while, and then said to Fraser (in Cumbrian dialect),

“If ’e wesn’t in th’Army, [I’m mad]. ’E knaws too bloody much aboot it, man.” This was fascinating. Hutton was a military hard case who had probably left school long before 14, and his speech and manner suggested that his normal and infrequent reading consisted of company orders and the sports headlines. But Shakespeare had talked to him across the centuries — admittedly on his own subject. I suggested hesitantly that the Bard might have picked up a good deal just from talking to military men; Hutton brushed the notion aside. “Nivver! Ye knaw them three — Bates, an’ them, talkin’ afore the battle? Ye doan’t git that frae lissenin’ in pubs, son. Naw, ’e’s bin theer.”

Oxfordians like myself live for this kind of evidence. The Earl of Oxford did see war first-hand.4 There’s no evidence that Mr. Stratford did. People are continually pointing out that the works of Shakespeare exhibit in-depth knowledge of law, politics, the court, Venice, Scotland, etc.5 We know that Oxford had experience in all of these fields, while there’s no evidence that Mr. Stratford did.

When we look at any one of these fields, the Oxford case becomes a little stronger, the Stratford case a little weaker. The Oxford case is like a cable made up of innumerable strands. When all these strands are woven together, the case for Oxford becomes so strong that we can say, “I’m certain that Oxford wrote the works attributed to Shakespeare.” In an earlier issue, I discussed the philosopher Charles Sanders Peirce:

Peirce argued that sound reasoning is more like a cable than a chain. Sound reasoning relies on “the multitude and variety of its arguments.” It’s like “a cable whose fibers,” soever “slender, are sufficiently numerous and intimately connected.”

Apart from Oxford’s experience in specific fields, Oxford had an excellent general education, as we would expect of the author of Shakespeare’s works. As for the Stratford man, there’s no evidence that he had more than a rudimentary education. And finally, Oxford’s life and personality are what we would expect of the author; his life and personality remind us of other outstanding writers. But there’s nothing in the life of the Stratford man to suggest literary genius, or to remind us of other outstanding writers. As Emerson put it, “I cannot marry the facts of William Shakespeare to his verse: Other men had led lives in some sort of keeping with their thought, but this man is in wide contrast.”

3. Mountbatten

The Supreme Allied Commander in Southeast Asia was Lord Louis Mountbatten (“Dickie” to his friends). I recommend the 12-part documentary about the life of Mountbatten; it deals with both world wars, the partition of India, etc. It’s characteristic of Mountbatten that he would work on such a documentary: he was concerned with his image, he had a strong interest in film, and he wasn’t the sort to write memoirs. As Kedourie put it, Mountbatten “was not at home with ideas; he was not particularly well-read, had little intellectual curiosity, and lacked subtlety and sophistication.” On his honeymoon, Mountbatten went to Hollywood, where he and his new bride made a home movie with Charlie Chaplin. As a young man, Mountbatten was close friends with the playboy prince who later became Edward VIII (the prince was called “David” by those close to him).

Though I recommend the Mountbatten documentary, I admit that it glosses over his mistakes; for example, it barely mentions the massacres that occurred during the partition of India (when Mountbatten was Viceroy of India). Mountbatten was born in 1900, and was assassinated by the IRA in 1979. The last episode of the documentary shows Mountbatten playing with his grandchildren at the family estate on the Irish coast; it shows him going out in his boat, perhaps the very boat that was blown up by the IRA ten years later.

In retrospect, it seems unwise of Mountbatten to choose Ireland for a family vacation; he was a tempting target for terrorists. Mountbatten was always inclined to be willful, impetuous, always inclined to throw caution to the winds. In the documentary, Mountbatten says how quickly he could drive from London to Portsmouth; his aide said he could always tell which route Mountbatten had taken because there were skid-marks on the road. Kedourie says that when Mountbatten was commanding a ship early in World War II, he executed

a reckless maneuver: while going at high speed in very rough seas, he ordered an abrupt turn which caused his ship to be hit by a great wave and to heel over fifty degrees to starboard; “as was his wont, he was ordering full steam ahead out of sheer impatience to reach wherever he was heading to start on something else.”

When Mountbatten was born in 1900, his name was Battenberg. During World War I, when anti-German feelings were running high, the name was changed to the more English-sounding Mountbatten. His father, who was First Sea Lord, was forced to resign because of anti-German feeling. This wave of anti-German feeling washed over the U.S. as well as Britain. My own maternal grandfather, who was born with a German name, took an English name (his mother’s maiden name, Jarvis) during World War I. No one in my family knows what his name was during his first twenty years.

Perhaps the most serious charge that can be made against Mountbatten is that he was careless with other people’s lives. In 1942, Mountbatten launched a raid on the French port of Dieppe, a raid that was thrown back with heavy losses. Wiser heads had counselled against the raid. Many of those killed in the raid were Canadian, and Canadians long held a grudge against Mountbatten. Lord Beaverbrook, a British politician who grew up in Canada, called Mountbatten a murderer.

When Mountbatten was in command of Southeast Asia, he ordered an assault on a Japanese-held village “at all costs.” The Chindit captain who received the order, Mike Calvert, regarded it as a foolish order, a suicidal assault, an example of Mountbatten being careless with other people’s lives.6 Calvert was the boldest of the Chindits, and was dubbed “Mad Mike,” so if he regarded it as a foolish assault, it doubtless was. Since Mountbatten wasn’t on the spot, and couldn’t judge the relative strength of the forces, he probably should have ordered an assault “if possible” rather than “at all costs.”

Kedourie, a staunch conservative, says that Mountbatten had left-wing tendencies, and he says that Mountbatten’s wife was “a committed left-winger.” When Mountbatten was in charge of Southeast Asia, he was too quick to trust communist parties. For example, he believed (Kedourie says) that the Chinese communists were “not Communists in the Russian sense at all, and that their territory is far more justly and competently governed than that of the central government.”

Mountbatten with his wife, Edwina, and Nehru.
Both Mountbatten and Edwina had extra-marital affairs.
Edwina was very close with Nehru.

Kedourie blames Mountbatten for putting too much faith in multi-national organizations like the Commonwealth and the United Nations. Writing in 1985, Kedourie says,

The Commonwealth is, today, little more than a Third World pressure group, many of whose members, India foremost among them, belong to, and are active in, the nonaligned movement.... As his view of the Commonwealth and its importance shows, Mountbatten’s was an essentially commonplace mind, lacking a cutting edge where politics was concerned.

But Kedourie’s real target isn’t Mountbatten, isn’t one individual, it’s the society of which he was a part, postwar British society. Mountbatten’s worldview was shared by

a great many among the British political and official classes. Compounded of muddle and illusion, it issued in a decadent, cynical, and complacent defeatism which marked these classes in the postwar decades — a defeatism demeaning to the erstwhile imperial rulers and ruinous to the multitudes who had been ruled and were now suddenly exposed to insecurity and civil war, and eventually to corrupt despotisms.

Kedourie points out how India benefited from British rule: “Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs [lived] side by side. They had been able to coexist because they could rely on the British Raj to maintain order and public security.” As Viceroy of India, Mountbatten pushed for rapid British withdrawal. It should have been obvious, Kedourie says, what rapid withdrawal meant: “inter-communal hostility would flare up and trust would disappear, life and property would be in danger, and men would kill lest they themselves be killed.” In the event, there were “horrific massacres” in the Punjab “by Sikhs of Muslims, and by Muslims of Sikhs and Hindus.... The ghastly slaughter in the summer of 1947 betokens a radical failure of the British Raj and of the man who was at its head.”

Some have argued that such massacres were inevitable. But Kedourie says that massacres didn’t occur in Bengal, though it had a mix of Hindus and Muslims. Kedourie says that order was maintained in Bengal because Gandhi went there, and threatened to fast until death if there was violence. This is an astonishing example of leadership, an astonishing example of the power of one individual using non-violent means. I know of no parallel in all of world history.

Kedourie says that if Gandhi could affect events in Bengal, then the British could have affected events in the Punjab — the Punjab massacres weren’t inevitable. In the Punjab, however, Sikhs were part of the mix, and as we said in an earlier issue, Sikhs aren’t known for using non-violence:

The ideal of the “saint soldier” is important in Sikhism. “Sikhs were valued by the British for their military skills.” A male Sikh is expected to carry a short sword (kirpan). In Kim, Kipling’s novel about India, Kim and his lama-friend are on a train, and someone asks why the lama is silent. Kim says he is pondering things eternal, to which a Sikh responds, “We of the Ludhiana Sikhs... do not trouble our heads with doctrine. We fight.”

India’s troubles weren’t unique. When Burma became independent in 1948, Kedourie says it was “a polity in which it is vain to expect stability, freedom, and prosperity.” And it has remained such since independence, Kedourie argues. If he were alive today, Kedourie could point to the Rohingya genocide and say, “This is what we should expect.”

For more on Mountbatten, consider Kedourie’s essay and Philip Ziegler’s biography. Kedourie says that Ziegler “has indeed done him proud, with a long and copious life — well-proportioned, lucid, and very readable.” And then there are documentaries:

The Life and Times of Mountbatten (12 episodes)
Secret Lives: Mountbatten (1 episode)
Mountbatten: Death of a Royal (1 episode)

The “Secret Lives” documentary interviews Andrew Roberts, a prominent British historian who is a fierce critic of Mountbatten. I wonder if Roberts and Kedourie are fair to Mountbatten. If Mountbatten were so incompetent, would he have been entrusted with so many high positions? Mountbatten had a combination of intelligence, charm, and energy. It may not be possible to weigh all his merits and demerits, all his successes and failures. Perhaps the only verdict we can return is non liquet, it is not clear.

4. Unconditional Surrender

At the Casablanca Conference in early 1943, Roosevelt said that the Allies demanded the “unconditional surrender” of the Axis countries. Roosevelt borrowed this phrase from Ulysses Grant (at Fort Donelson, Grant had said, “No terms except an unconditional and immediate surrender can be accepted”). According to Mountbatten and others, the British were uncomfortable with the phrase “unconditional surrender.” They may have hoped that a negotiated settlement with Germany would shorten the war, reduce casualties, and maintain Germany as a bulwark against Stalin. In the event, Germany’s prostration was Stalin’s opportunity.

There were high-ranking officers in Germany who wanted a settlement with the Allies, and understood that Hitler would have to be ousted. In 1938, when Hitler was preparing to invade Czechoslovakia, some German officers plotted Hitler’s overthrow, fearing that an invasion of Czechoslovakia would ignite another major European war. Throughout World War II, there were German officers who wanted peace with the Allies, and wanted to overthrow Hitler. The insistence on unconditional surrender, the refusal to negotiate, may have made the task of these German officers harder, may have made it more difficult to end the war.

The documentary World At War (1973) says that, after the Allies demanded unconditional surrender, the feeling in Germany was,

There was going to be no mercy for Germans, Nazi and non-Nazi both lost some illusions, and drew a little closer together. The escape hatches had been bolted, this was to be a total war, fought to the finish. “The general feeling was.... we’d better stick it out.... No alternative, we’ve got to fight to the bitter end. And this Goebbels used to the uttermost in his propaganda.”6B

So the demand for unconditional surrender worked to Goebbels’ advantage, and worked to the disadvantage of anti-Nazi Germans.

Once a negotiated end to the war was ruled out, once the two sides decided that it would be a “fight to the finish,” did that prompt Hitler to begin the Holocaust? No, Hitler decided to begin the Holocaust around January, 1942, a year before the Casablanca Conference. The systematic killing of Jews began in the summer of 1941, during the German invasion of Russia; this was the so-called “Shoah by bullets.”

If the demand for “unconditional surrender” prolonged the war in Europe, did it also prolong the war against Japan? In an earlier issue, I wrote, “Perhaps the U.S. could have avoided dropping the [atom] bomb by negotiating an end to the war, instead of demanding unconditional surrender. The Japanese might have been willing to negotiate if the U.S. hadn’t insisted that the emperor be removed.”

In his memoir Quartered Safe Out Here, George MacDonald Fraser argues that the decision to drop the atom bomb was the right decision. He describes an argument that he had with a man who opposed the decision:

“By what right [Fraser argued] do you say that Allied lives should have been sacrificed to save the victims of Hiroshima?” It was a bit unfair, perhaps, if only because I am rather heavily built and he was an elderly philosopher and I was obviously much moved.

When I read this, I was reminded of Jordan Peterson’s remark that a conversation between men often involves an unspoken threat of violence.

5. Miscellaneous

A. In the last issue, I said, “Pope Francis is uncomfortable with a God who’s both dark and light.... In his view, God is pure light, pure love.” Further evidence of this appeared recently — the Pope suggested there was no Hell, or at least no eternal punishment, and perhaps no Devil, either. Vatican officials tried to “clarify” these unorthodox remarks, which dovetail with the Pope’s earlier remarks.7

B. Some people say, “Only a rich person can afford to be a writer without getting paid, everyone else needs income, everyone else must be an academic or a journalist or a professional writer.” This is like saying, “Only the rich can afford to be lovers, everyone else needs income, everyone else must be a prostitute.” No one is too poor to be an unpaid intellectual, if only they have the will to be such. “Where there’s a will, there’s a way.”

© L. James Hammond 2018
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1. The regiment’s slogan “Remember Arroyo!” refers to a battle during the Napoleonic wars. The slogan was still used occasionally by Fraser’s comrades. The drums captured at the Battle of Arroyo are today displayed at Carlisle Castle in Cumbria. back
2. Fraser wasn’t convinced that the Chindits were effective: “There was certainly a strong feeling, said to be shared by Slim himself, that well-trained infantry could do anything that so-called elite or special troops could do, and that it was a waste of time and manpower to train units for particular tasks. It was said of the Chindits at the time that, whatever the strategic value of their operations, they had performed a valuable service by proving that the Japanese were not invincible. With all respect to Special Force, whose contribution was second to none in Burma, this is not true. So far as the Japanese did have a reputation as military supermen, especially in jungle, this was exploded in the Imphal-Kohima campaign where they suffered the worst defeat in Japan’s history.” But the first Chindit operation occurred in early 1943, a year before Imphal-Kohima. So the Chindits may have helped to show that the Japanese weren’t invincible. back
3. A series called “Narrow Escapes of World War II,” available on Youtube, devotes an episode to The Chindits. Another series, “Gladiators of World War II,” also has an episode on The Chindits. Charlton Ogburn Jr., a member of Merrill’s Marauders, wrote a book called The Marauders, which was made into a movie called Merrill’s Marauders. Beyond the Chindwin is a memoir by one of Wingate’s lieutenants, Bernard Fergusson. A series called The World At War has an episode on Burma (episode 14; the audio is better at dailymotion.com than at youtube.com). (The Great War deals with World War I.) The End of Empire deals with the partition of India, etc. This BBC website has animated maps about World War II, including the Burma campaign. back
4. When Oxford was 19 (1569), he served under Lord Sussex, who was trying to put down the Northern Rebellion. When Oxford was 35, he was the commander, or co-commander, of about 5,000 troops in the Low Countries. However, his tenure only lasted about a month, perhaps because Leicester replaced him. back
5. For Shakespeare’s knowledge of law, click here, for his knowledge of Scotland, click here. back
6. Calvert mentions this affair in a documentary, perhaps “Secret Lives: Mountbatten.” Calvert was a former boxing champion, known for his ferocity in combat. In the photo of Wingate with Chindit leaders, Calvert is on the left, with mustache.

In an interview, Calvert comes across as thoughtful and well-spoken. He took some classes at Cambridge. He wrote several books about his war experiences.

Calvert says that only a small percentage of soldiers are willing to move forward under fire. These few are often the first to get killed, since they’re in front. Once these few are killed, the unit is almost incapable of moving forward.

In 1951, Calvert was dismissed from the Army for homosexual conduct with four German teens. He always insisted on his innocence. I read an article that says the teens robbed Calvert’s apartment; perhaps to divert attention from the robbery, they threw an accusation at Calvert. It appears to me that Calvert was wrongfully convicted, and the Army should be willing to re-open the case.

After being dismissed from the Army, Calvert ended up in Australia, where he became an alcoholic and a vagrant. Eventually he made his way back to England, and got his life in order. back

6B. Episode 16, minute 23 of 52 back
7. See the Guardian, the New York Times, and Vox.com back