Double Victory: Minorities and Women During World War II
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Wingate, Orde Charles (1903–1944)

British army general who raised an unconventional force known as the Chindits in World War II. Born in India on 26 February 1903, Orde Wingate was educated at Charterhouse School and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich, from which he was commissioned in the Royal Artillery in 1923. In 1927, he was posted to Khartoum, where he served with the Sudan Defence Force until 1933.

In 1936, Wingate was sent to Palestine, then in the throes of the Arab Revolt. Despite his Arabist training and the pro-Arab sentiment of Palestine's British rulers, he became a fanatical Zionist and by 1938 had secured official permission to organize the Special Night Squads, joint Anglo-Jewish units that conducted small-unit operations against Arab terrorist hideouts. However, in 1939, his extreme views led to his transfer back to England.

The following year, Wingate went to the Sudan to help organize the effort to drive the Italians from Ethiopia and restore Haile Selassie to his throne. The troops he raised, the Gideon Force, ultimately played a key role in achieving success in ousting the Italians and restoring Haile Selassie, and he and the emperor entered Addis Ababa on 4 May 1941. But Wingate's outspokenness severely angered his superiors. Exhausted, ill with malaria, and probably suffering from clinical depression, Wingate attempted suicide in June 1941.

In early 1942, Sir Archibald Wavell, who had high regard for Wingate's abilities, requested his transfer to the Far East. In India, Wingate raised the "Chindits," an irregular force designed for operations in the enemy rear in Burma. The first Chindit operation, from February to April 1943, was conducted by a brigade-sized force. It achieved limited success but raised morale in a theater that had seen only Japanese victories to that point. Wingate, now a major general, secured the personal support of Prime Minister Winston L. S. Churchill for further operations. The second Chindit operation, conducted by three brigades and supported by an American air contingent ran from March to July 1944, but its results were also mixed, in part because of Wingate's untimely death in a plane crash on 24 March 1944 near Imphal in India.

Despite his extreme opinions, eccentricity, and disdain for the conventional, Wingate was a soldier of great self-confidence, determination, and mental and physical toughness. His innovations in irregular warfare cannot be denied.

George M. Brooke III


Further Reading
Bierman, John, and Colin Smith. Fire in the Night: Wingate of Burma, Ethiopia, and Zion. New York: Random House, 1995.; Royle, Trevor. Orde Wingate: Irregular Soldier. London: Weidenfeld and Nicholson, 1995.; Sykes, Christopher. Orde Wingate. London: Collins, 1959.; Thompson, Robert, and Peter Mead. "Wingate—The Pursuit of Truth." Army Quarterly and Defence Journal 108 (July 1978): 335–340.
 

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