Orde Wingate

Orde Wingate

Orde Wingate was a rebellious and unconventional general who revolutionised jungle warfare during World War Two.

Born in India in 1903, Orde Wingate was educated at Charterhouse and the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Wingate was awarded his gunnery officer’s commission in 1923.

A born adventurer, Wingate left the United Kingdom in 1927 by bike. He travelled through France, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Austria and Yugoslavia before making it to Genoa, where he sailed to Egypt. Once he reached Cairo he made his way to Khartoum (now the capital of the Republic of the Sudan). In 1928 he was allowed to move to the Sudan Defence Force. He worked on the border between Sudan and Ethiopia. One of the roles of the Sudan Defence Force was to hunt down slave traders. When his time in the SDF ended, Wingate even launched an expedition into the Libyan desert. He wanted to search for ancient locations mentioned by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus.

In 1936 he was assigned to serve in Palestine. However his growing sympathies for the Zionist cause disconcerted senior army officers and in 1939 he was transferred back to Britain.

In 1940 Wingate was back in East Africa. From 1940-41, he led a guerrilla force of British, Ethiopian and Sudanese troops which operated against the Italians in Ethiopia. This small band, named ‘Gideon’s Force’, did very well against the considerably bigger Italian Army. Gideon’s Force contained less than 2,000 men, but it managed to force around 20,000 Italians to surrender around the end of their campaign in 1941.

Wingate caught malaria after the campaign ended. The illness, and possibly the medicine he took to cure himself, triggered a nervous breakdown which culminated in a suicide attempt. He returned to Britain to recover.

In May 1942, Wingate was sent to Rangoon in Burma. Here he created 'Wingate's Raiders', now better known as the ‘Chindits’ from the Burmese word for lion 'chinthe'. The Commander-In-Chief of India, General Wavell, already knew Wingate; indeed when Wavell was General-Officer Commanding the Middle East he had had come close to court-martialing Wingate for insubordination. However, that did not stop Wingate’s quick promotion from major to colonel when he arrived in Burma.

Wingate’s ‘Chindits’ wreaked havoc behind Japanese lines. The Chindits were especially successful along the Irrawaddy River where they damaged Japanese supply lines. Wingate’s Raiders also gathered and sent back information useful to Royal Air Force operations. Orde Wingate died in a plane crash in April 1944, but the Chindits continued to weaken Japanese forces in Burma after his death.

MLA Citation/Reference

"Orde Wingate". HistoryLearning.com. 2023. Web.