Between December 1941 and August 1945, British Commonwealth troops and their allies fought a bitter war against the Japanese in Asia. This area of conflict became known as the Far East Campaign.
Much like in Europe, special operation groups were used in Burma to disrupt enemy lines and cause general confusion. The British and Indian soldiers of the Long Range Penetration Force, also known as the Chindits, performed two operations: Longcloth (1943) and Thursday (1944). Their work sabotaging supply lines prevented the Japanese from deploying all their resources to the main battle areas, thus weakening the strength of the main groups that allied forces would be facing.
The Chindits were not the only special forces group to be active in Burma. Other groups, such as the 81st West African Division, were also active and helped to disrupt Japanese supply lines. Yet they are not as well known.
In this talk, Dr Lyman will compare two of these – the 81st West African traverse of the Kaladan Valley in 1944-45 and Force 136’s Operation Character in the Karenni in April 1945 – with the Chindits’ Operation Thursday. He will evaluate their relative strategic results in the context of the defeat of the Japanese in Burma in 1944-45.
Dr Robert Lyman is a writer and historian who spent 20 years in the British Army. He has published widely on the Second World War looking at Europe, Asia and North Africa. He is also Field Marshal Bill Slim’s military biographer. He was the BBC’s historical advisor for VJ (Victory over Japan) Day commemorations in both 2015 and 2020, and is now working on a new narrative account of the war in the Far East.