British Army Major General. Best remembered for his controversial approach to warfare and for founding the "Chindits", whose World War II performance in Burma are credited with deflecting a major Japanese attack on India. Born to a strict Protestant family who spent most of their Sundays in church, studying the Bible, he grew up a strongly religious man. After graduating from the Royal Military Academy in 1923, Wingate was commissioned a second lieutenant in the Artillery. Learning the Arabic language, he was assigned to the Sudan Defense Force, to catch poachers, smugglers and slave traders along the Abyssinian frontier. His knowledge of Arabic would lead to his next major assignment, in Palestine, where he also learned to speak Hebrew. In 1936, he was assigned to British controlled Palestine, which was caught in a guerilla war between the Palestinian Arabs and the Jewish settlers. While the official British position was neutrality, British soldiers were regularly killed by both sides in the unofficial war. Initially he attempted the middle ground, but eventually he sided with the Jewish settlers, seeing them as the Biblical inheritors of Palestine. Working with the Haganah on an unofficial basis, he helped them set up a self-defense force, the forerunner of the Israeli Army, and began offensive operations against the night-fighting Arabs. Mixing regular British soldiers with Jewish settlers into Special Night Squads, Wingate commenced night operations to destroy Arab infiltrators and bombers. He was so successful at bringing peace to Palestine that his unusual operation was allowed to continue, despite the official British stance of neutrality. In 1940, his Palestine supervisor, General Alexander Wavell, remembered his success, and had him organize native resistance to the Italian occupation of Abyssinia (Ethiopia). In 1943, Wavell would again call upon Wingate, to have him organize resistance to the Japanese after the British Army was defeated and pushed out of Burma. Wingate’s Chindits, a mix of British, Indian and Burmese, were so successful that the Japanese Army called off their 1944 offensive into India, after initially capturing two Indian towns. The Chindits set up a secret base, with airfield, behind Japanese lines in Burma, and he set up his headquarters there. Wingate was called to a conference in India, traveling on an American B-25, which crashed with no survivors on March 12, 1944. He was buried in Arlington National Cemetery, along with his British aide-de-camp, and the American crew of the B-25, because the majority of the victims of the air crash in which he died were American. It was not possible to distinguish between the victims of the crash.
Bio by: Kit and Morgan Benson
MAJ GENERAL DSO BRITISH ARMY