on 8 November 2011
"War in the Wilderness: The Chindits in Burma 1943-1944" by Tony Redding is an incredibly comprehensive account of the Chindit campaigns, drawing on interview of fifty veterans of the campaign. It is a remarkably detailed book, well illustrated and offering a new insight into a campaign which I, and possibly many others, possessed only scant knowledge of.
For those wishing to know more about this fascinating campaign, this book would be a valuable starting point.
Hear this fascinating interview with the author and a Chindit veteran on the Today programme , BBC Radio 4 [...]
on 11 January 2012
The story of the Chindit operations in occupied Burma is a breath taking tale of unbelievable human achievement under impossible conditions which, in terms of sheer human endurance and courage, are widely regarded as the toughest sustained combat operations of the Second World War. Yet the previous published accounts have not tended to focus on the men who were the Chindits but rather on their unconventional, somewhat controversial leader Major General Orde Wingate; on the credibility and strategic success or otherwise of the operations and on whether or not the Chindit operations wasted resources at a time when they were much needed elsewhere.
For the first time War in the Wilderness tells the human story of the Chindits in riveting, energy-sapping detail. Tony Redding's narrative is a model of clarity and conciseness and is enriched immeasurably by the vivid and often harrowing experiences of around fifty veteran Chindits who were interviewed by the author. The book is well illustrated with clear and helpful maps and both official and, previously unpublished, private photographs. This very balanced and readable account is richly laced with the names and experiences of those who took part in the operations and includes a useful appendix listing all who received honours and awards, which includes the four Chindit VC winners.
In his account of Number 5 Column in the 1943 Chindit operation "Beyond the Chindwin" (Collins 1945) Brigadier Bernard Ferguson remarks "to those who took part in it, the Wingate expedition was a watershed in their lives. Before it, one's appreciation of values was only half developed. Now we have new standards and new touchstones." On every page of War in the Wilderness there is abundant evidence of how and why this should be so, indeed Tony Redding continues the fascinating story of the surviving Chindits to the present day and with attitudes, self-reliance and friendships forged in extreme adversity, it is clear that they remain Chindits for the rest of their days and why The Chindit's Old Comrades Association has declared that it will only close when the last member dies.
The men who took part were neither specially selected nor volunteers but rather they were ordinary soldiers, a few experienced regulars but the majority relatively inexperienced territorial's and wartime only men drawn from across the British Army, including Gurkhas. This is the story of how many of these men marched one thousand miles across impenetrable country, carrying half their bodyweight, with little hope of survival if left behind. How almost half became casualties and almost all who survived were hospitalised on return and yet how ordinary, highly motivated men effectively trained and led can accomplish the impossible.
The son of a Chindit who served with 2nd King's Own in 111 Brigade, Tony Redding is very well placed to tell this story with a sensitivity, a passion and an eye for detail. This book should be on the shelves of all with an interest in the Chindit operations and the Burma campaign generally and of all concerned with the strength of the human spirit to overcome extreme diversity. There are lessons here of direct relevance to the art of leadership and conduct of deep penetration operations in the present day and, such is the way in which this inspirational somewhat haunting, human story is told, War in the Wilderness it is one of those rare books which, once started, is very difficult to put down.
on 13 December 2011
This is an eye witness account of the two Chindit operations. There have been many books on the Chindits but this is the truest and most real of them all sparing neither the ardour nor the danger. I was there and can vouch for it. It is for real. Read it.
I must confess to having a vested interest in this book but one which may still have some relevance to interested parties.
The book has been written as a labour of love by Tony Redding with meticulous concern for accuracy and to create a real sense of 'being there'. It was initially conceived in recognition of the appalling Chindit campaign experienced by his own father and the many others like him. In order to achieve these goals, Tony interviewed considerable numbers of surviving Chindits and their relatives in diverse locations.
He was also keen to find, and make use of, original pictorial evidence which reflected the ongoing situation in Burma as seen by serving soldiers rather than using the familiar, and oft repeated, official war correspondent and press images. Following this inspiration he was able to track down a surprising number of original photographs taken by serving soldiers, often with cameras acquired from captured enemy troops.
This photographic record was uniquely captured and has never been seen in a previous publication. It is an invaluable resource providing an intimate glance into reality. Not surprisingly these images were often somewhat worse for wear and were nearly always very small. They were all analogue prints and needed to be digitalised for publication and archive purposes following on from the necessary restoration and enlarging processes. Over 150 of these have been used in the book.
As the photographer responsible for this I inevitably got to know the prints very well indeed over quite a long period. I also got to know some of the surviving soldiers or their relatives too as part of the process. Consequently I became increasingly drawn into, not just the work that I was engaged to accomplish, but also the whole concept of the book and what it was trying to do.
This book deserves all the recognition that it can get. The first edition sold out within hours following a television interview I believe and this next edition is also doing well. I also believe that the profits are being donated to the Chindits. It is a remarkable achievement and a gripping read - so well done Tony for a wonderful piece of dedicated work.
on 3 February 2012
I bought this book as my dad had been a Chindit but had rarely spoken about his experiences. He often spoke fondly of India and the sights he had seen there, but never of what he had been through in the jungle, at least not to me. Because this book contains memories of other Chindits, it really made me come to understand what he had been through, during and after the war. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn about this period of WWII, and to understand what ordinary young men suddenly found themselves confronted with, experiences that would leave survivors with memories that would haunt them for the rest of their lives. What has made this book really special for me was to find my father in a group photo. Priceless.
on 25 March 2012
Tony Redding has produced a most detailed and compelling account of this campiagn which has been unfairly neglected in the annals of WW2. The first hand testimony of Chindits is remarkable and moving: the conditions they endured were appalling and are graphically reported here but with stoicism and reserve. This book should be read by anyone interested in the major campaigns of WW2 and also by those who are interested in the human capacity for endurance and courage. James Herbert, ex-6th Gurkha Rifles
on 5 December 2011
I found this to be a compelling, and sometimes shocking, account of suffering and achievement under the worst possible conditions of warfare that can be imagined. Throughout the book the resolution of the human spirit shines through. I can thoroughly recommend this book.
on 10 January 2012
Brilliant book for those who want to learn from real accounts from men that were there, what it was like to be in Burma. First hand accounts make fascinating reading. It is a book you can pick up and dip into at your own leisure, well worth getting.
on 6 March 2012
This meticulously-researched and comprehensive book, based in part on interviews with 50 surviving Chindits, takes the reader into the jungles of Burma in 1943-1944, behind enemy lines. We suffer with the men as they combat jungle heat and humidity, a variety of debilitating diseases, injuries, starvation and the ever-present threat of the Japanese. All this was accomplished whilst carrying kit and weapons equal to the weight of two suitcases. These heroic men, required to fight for longer than planned, show courage of an order it is hard to understand but they not only improved British morale after the defeats in 1942 but provided the springboard for later allied offensives. Too many history books reflect the desire of generals and politicans, keen to re-write history to improve their own reputations. This sensitively written and sympathetic but objective book gives a voice to those who were there and experienced the true horrors of war. Author Tony Redding deserves the thanks of all those want an honest account of a gruesome but heroic period that influenced the outcome of the war, thanks to these truly courageous men.
on 12 January 2012
good authoritive read, was exactly what we were looking for, it was a xmas present for my father in law, and he has thoroughly enjoyed it, what those boys went through for us was awesome.