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Stewart Cochrane

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Chindit, Special Force, Burma 1944
by Stewart Cochrane   

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Books by Stewart Cochrane
· Chindit, Special Force, Burma 1944
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Publisher:  Xlibris ISBN-10:  0738820415 Type: 


Copyright:  May 5 1999

Barnes &
The Black Watch (RHR) Chindits

The untold story of the P.B.I! The "Poor Bloody Infantry" In the whole of W.W.II, never was so much asked from allied soldiers, than was asked of "The Chindits" six months of grueling combat behind the Japanese lines. This is a first hand account of the second Chindit expedition, "Operation Thursday".

"Chindits"-These were the long-range penetration combat units that fought the Imperial Japanese forces where they thought they were safe, hundreds of miles behind the front line. 10,000 men of many nationalities were transported and supplied solely by air during a monsoon deluge that dropped 200 inches of rain. The Chindits fought for 6 months in the inhospitable conditions of the Burmese jungle, mountains, swamps and plains in which was the second largest airborne operation of World War II. The Chindits were to prove to the rest of the Allied Armies, that the myth of the "Japanese Superman" was just that, a myth. After learning the art of jungle fighting, they became masters of it. The Allied soldier was no longer scorned, but feared. The Japanese learned that there was nowhere safe from the "Chindit Man". Experience the Private soldier's lot with William "Cocky" Cochrane, No.1 Section, A Company, 2nd Battalion the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), 14 Brigade L.R.P Excerpt
Within a quarter of an hour of the last shot being fired, we got organized, and then began searching for information and the like from the Japs lying around us and on the road. Sgt. Burns was detailing blokes to search the Jap dead and wounded. We had to rake through their kit, we were not interested in Private soldiers really, just Officers, as they were more likely to have been carrying maps and information on their troop movements etc. Blimey what a mess! We had really chewed them up and we had to get up to our armpits in it. The stink of shit was everywhere! I don't know why it really kept surprising me, but a bloke can shit an awful lot while he's dying or running. Wallace reckoned that all we had to do was to follow the shite trail and it would take us right to Tokyo. There was a lot of Jap wounded, but nobody I knew did anything for them, good or bad. The ones we came across were in no state to do anything, though it did cross my mind that we didn't find any Japanese with superficial wounds. The order was no first aid to any of them; it was just a case of finding information. The bodies were so thick on the ground that it was hard not to step on them. I was with Rab and Wallace and as we were raking through the crud, Wallace was being a bit of a comedian, it was hard not to laugh, it was good to be alive at that moment amongst all that pain and death, "Frigg me, this is one hell of a shitty job!" Amidst all of the blood and gore, we couldn't help but laugh at the obvious observation. Wallace came up with a theory as we were digging around in the butcher's shop, "I've been thinkin'" Rab turned to me and grinned, "Now that's more dangerous than all these bust'ds put together" Wallace wasn't put off, "See all these poor bust'ds here? legs 'n arms all skewiff, bits 'n pieces all hangin' all over the place?" "Wallace, do you 'ave too? it's bad enough havin' to do it, without you giving' a friggin' runnin' commentary" "Naw, see all their 'ands?" He lifted an arm and waved it at us, "See his thumb? friggin' gripped it he did, an' him there, that's what you do see?" I was getting pissed off with Wallace's comments, I just wanted to get the job over, "What the frigg are you on about?" "Well, the worse it is, the more a bloke squeezes his thumb in his own fist, see? that one there took a while to snuff it, he's holdin' on to both of 'em!" Rab finally had gotten his fill of Wallace's observations, "When you cop one Pal, I'll 'ave a dekho at your hands, alright? now get on wi' the friggin' job or I'll break yer thumbs mesel'" Wallace looked over to where I was rummaging through a pack, expecting support, I just shook my head, "Don't talk of the Devil, yer stupid bust'd" I did notice that Wallace did have a point about the thumbs of the dead men, but gripping them as they died? I don't know about that, but some of those poor bustards had almost dug themselves their own holes in their agony. Being up to your armpits in the enemy's guts, so to speak, really brings you to the realization that they were virtually in the same position as we were. These men weren't the "Supermen" that we had been told we would be up against. They were just scruffy bustards, miles from home, the same as we were, but I've got to admit that I was glad that it was me going through their kit and not the other way around. I didn't want to think about it, maybe if I didn't, then God would get me back in one piece, but if I had to cop one, I hoped to frigg that it would be quick.

Professional Reviews

Highly Recommended
Rev. E.J.C. Loseby (ex-Gnr 28th Field Regt RA) Burma Star.Org The book CHINDIT - Special Force Burma 1944 captures the absolute essence of active service during the Burma Campaign. Every veteran of that campaign will immediately identify with the narration of 'Cocky' and Stewart Cochrane, especially in the chapters that describe the jungle warfare action and the fear of danger behind every tree, bush or in the undergrowth. Reading, you still hold that breath that could lead to your position being revealed. The almost silly conversations at times and the laughing at the most feeble of jokes were how it really was and all done in an attempt to detract from the imminent risk that the next moment could be your last. More importantly for our children and their children, here is an answer to "What did you do in the war Granddad?" They will read this book and know that their family played a vital part in the history of war and peace. 'Chindit' is a privilege to read and an even greater privilege to offer this review.

Quest for heroes is not in vain
Ms. D.C Jordan (Teacher/Author Washington, USA) This story flows like a letter written by a soldier to his family back home. The opening paragraphs set the stage…five months of training in India, a special force penetrating deep behind enemy lines, a strike at the Japanese “in the gut.” I found myself reading as a teacher…these are the details that make history come alive, become more than distant times and places. A student seeing WWII through the eyes of a foot soldier would see truth…blood and mud and loneliness. He would also see heroism and, strangely enough, comedy. The story of war is universal in its treatment of battles, charges and countercharges, wounds and death. What is new about CHINDIT is that it puts a man in the thick of things even though he’s never been there. The author becomes his father, feeling every degree of jungle heat, every sting from a nest of red ants, every grenade that rips into a leg, that explodes a buddy. He has dreams of his wife back home, and awakes to evidence of his loneliness. Behind the reality is the triumph of a man’s spirit, slugging through torrential downpours, ankle deep in mud, subsisting on K-rations and “chuggles”, canteens filled with typhus and cholera made potable by periodic infusions of chemicals. Through bouts of diarrhea and dehydration, many falling victim to jungle rot, the men of CHINDIT march…day after day, night after night, moving deeper into enemy territory. They become men of “the forgotten army” until a memorial is erected forty years later and a son reveals the hidden story. Amidst the horror of war, Chindits found time to laugh, and they planned the letters they would send home…if only they could… camouflaging stories of jungle horror beneath humorous oddities. All names of mountains and hamlets, rivers and lakes in Burma began with “Bum” as if a psychic comedian had drawn the maps. Dead Japanese soldiers smelled like powdered women. Jungle allies couldn’t distinguish between beasts of burden and food…mules were eaten and men carried the tools of war. Digesting corned beef day after day had a predictable effect on the system, called “liquid in a can.” Japanese sentries liked candy bars. When Chindits found themselves in the middle of an enemy stronghold, with daylight coming, they put chocolate on fence posts until sentries became friendlier. By the end of a harrowing nine months “the forgotten army” become symbols of patriotism, honor, courage…the lessons any teacher would be proud to introduce in any classroom, anywhere in the world. They illustrate the meaning of old slogans, “The boldest measures are safest”… “Daring exploits hasten the victory”, words posted in tribute to the men who lived history. Most of all, they give this teacher hope that her quest for heroes is not in vain.

This is a valuable record
Lt. Col. D.M.C Rose D.S.O Author of "Off the record - The life and letters of a Black Watch Officer" David Rose was Officer Commanding 42 Column Black Watch "Chindits" 1944, Commanded the Black Watch in the Hook, Korea 1952, and the Mau-Mau rising in Kenya “Cocky” Cochrane’s story has been recorded by his son and published via the Internet. The stories of most private soldiers die with them, so this is a valuable record on that score alone. When a campaign is over; regiments are usually disbanded and after some leave, men get on with earning their living and looking after their families. It is usually the Officers who have time to reflect and put their stories into history or memoirs. In our regiment, “Cocky’s” and mine, we have an unusually strong and close relationship between Officers, N.C.O’s and men. We tend to serve in the regiment, The Black Watch, in which our grandfathers, uncles and brothers have served. You are “known” from your very first day, you have something to live up to. If you misbehave, the news is soon passed around at home. These close ties with home, give strength to the morale of men when things get really tough, as you will realize when you read this book. During the regiment’s long life of more than 250 years, there have been great changes in the life style of Scotland. The Gaelic speaking men of 1780 had to learn English, so they spoke the English of the Kirk School or their Officers, who were mostly gentry. In the great industrial revolution, when the surplus population of the Highlands and Islands flooded into the new towns like Glasgow, there was great poverty. The clearances replaced crofters with thousands of sheep. Then came the potato famine. Most of our population went to Canada and the United States of America, but many Scottish, both Officers and men, became mercenary soldiers or sailors. The British Empire grew, and there was always a need for more men to keep the peace, both in the Navy and the Army. Some Officers and men served in the forces of foreign countries like Russia, France and Sweden. Fighting was in our blood and British soldiers were highly respected in all parts of the World and gained a great reputation for good discipline, which was rare amongst Continental Armies. We are not “killers” by nature and we very quickly make friends with the enemy, once the business-in-hand is over. “Cocky” Cochrane’s barrack room language may be a problem for some people. This intimate language, between close friends, does not give offence, in fact it is a kind of short-hand used to show that you are accepted as “One of us”. It is not very attractive to outsiders and perhaps with better education it will be moderated, but I fear it will never die among our men. It just isn’t right to talk “posh”, the King’s English. It gives me great pleasure to write this short tribute to “Cocky” Cochrane and his stalwart “Muckers”. I was very sorry to leave them when I was wounded in the earlier part of the campaign. I stayed on in Command of 42 Column for about two weeks, but eventually my wounds became so septic that I had to fly out.

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