The Chindits were a Special Force brought together during World War 2 to fight behind Japanese lines in Burma. They took part in two missions - Operation Loincloth in 1943 ( the back drop for the Burma chapters in Sacred Mountain), and Operation Thursday in 1944. Their objective was to disrupt enemy supply routes, divert Japanese troops from the front lines and destroy infrastructure.
They suffered great hardship; disease, starvation and enemy action took a great toll. Of the 3,000 men who marched into Burma on Loincloth in February 1943, 818 were killed, captured or died of disease. Over 600 more had to be invalided out of active service due to their health.
They travelled on foot through the jungle, relying on air drops for their supplies, supplemented by food they could buy off local villages. Their retreat back to India at the end of Loincloth in 1943 is one of the most harrowing episodes of the war: starving, weak, tormented by tropical sores, harried by the Japanese, the columns had to split up to avoid detection and find enough food. Many men did not make it back, and they knew that if they became too weak the orders were for them to be left for the Japanese to pick up.
For Operation Loincloth the men were drawn from several sources, including the 13th Battalion, the Kings Liverpool Regiment ( a battalion of older recruits who were not meant to see frontline service) and the 3rd Battalion, the 2nd Gurkha Rifles, a unit of newly recruited Nepalese Gurkhas. It is with the latter that the story is set.
The authors old school headmaster Philip Stibbe was a Chindit on Operation Loincloth, injured during the retreat and taken prisoner of war, he spend the rest of the war in Rangoon jail. His book Return via Rangoon gives a detailed and harrowing insight into life for the Chindits.
For more information: http://www.chindits.info/