The Far Setting Sun

Far East Living History Group

 

About Us

 

Our main portrayals are of units of the British, Burmese & Indian Army who served out in the Far East during WW2.  We focus our portrayal on the time leading up to the Second Chindit Expedition known as “Operation Thursday”.

 

 

Chindits   (AKA - Special Force, 3rd (CHINDIT) Indian Infantry Division)

 

Due to the most unusual nature of the force, they were known by a number of names, but the one most easily recognised is “The Chindits”

 

In March 1944 more than 10,000 Chindits were flown by glider into the depths of the jungle to fight 'behind the lines', cutting and blowing lines of communications and supply of the Imperial Japanese Army. This method of jungle fighting, called Long Range Penetration Group (LRPG), was a new and untrusted concept during the war. Led by the Wingate, the Chindits were the first troops in the Far East to prove the Japanese enemy were not an unbeatable force.

 

These men, who served as jungle commandos out in the Far East, were part of a revolutionary concept in that they were based on a 400 man, self contained unit structure rather than the old battalion system.  They were reliant upon air dropped supplies, and were totally dependent on Mules for transport. 

 

 

A patrol, in light vegetation, two keep watch while two others check the map position

 

As a unit, we focus on the Reconnaissance Platoon of Column 44 (ESSEX), 23rd Brigade.  The Chindit Columns comprised of a wide range of troops to ensure they were functional as a self sustaining fighting force.  We try to portray as much of the Column to gain a further insight of 'Long Range Penetration Troops'.

 

Our main portrayals are:

 

1st Battalion, Essex Regiment.  A regular battalion of an old “line” regiment, who were bought into the Chindits in 1943,   They were trained to be part of “Operation Thursday”, the Second Chindit Expedition.  The battalion did not get to Burma in their original capacity as they were reassigned as part of the defensive force that fought at the Battle of Kohima and in the Naga Hills.  It is still considered that they fought as Chindits, being under the organisation, and using much of the training from, the pre-operational training for their role with the rest of the Chindits.  The battalion was split to form Columns 44 & 56.  We portray the Reconnaissance Platoon of Column 44.

 

 

Female Section: “TANS” or Territorial Army Nursing Service.  Established in 1909 as a supplementary organisation to the Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS).  Its purpose was to support the regular service in emergencies and times of war. All its members were civilian nurses, often with limited training.  By the end of the war, the TANS were serving in all theatres of war. This section gives an insight to the health and living conditions of troops in the Far East.

 

 

 

2nd Burma Rifles.  A valuable asset to every Column, the 'Burrifs' acted as translators and guides for the Chindits and according to Wingate were " ideal soldiers for aggressive reconnaissance".  Comprising of Burmans, Karens, Kachins and Chins with some Gurkhas.

The 2nd Burma Rifles were part of the original 77th (Chindit) Brigade, taking part in the Fist Chindit Expedition, “Operation Longcloth”

They joined 3 Indian Infantry Division (Special Force) in August 1943, at Jhansi, and underwent an increase in size to provide reconnaissance sections for each Chindit Column.

 

 

 

To act as the other small contingents found within the Chindit Columns, we also portray the following units:

 

 

RAF Liason, There was a contingent of RAF in each and every one of the columns, and in all of the battles, and marches of, the Chindit Expeditions.   They were RAF Officers, drawn from the ranks of experienced pilots , with a radio section of RAF NCOs and Airmen to assist them.

 

There primary role was to co-ordinate the air supply, and recovery for the column.  The supplies being anything from ammunition to new boots.  There were also frequent medical evacuations, and even post calls!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Royal West African Frontier Force. 

In 1943 the 3rd (West Africa) Brigade was detached from the 81st (West Africa) Division, and assigned to the Chindits as a garrison force for the jungle bases established by the Columns.  The Brigade compirised of the 6th, 7th & 12th Nigeria Regiments.  These were African soldiers lead by British Officers and Senior NCOs, and contained Nigerian Other ranks, and Junior NCOs. 

 

They fought with distinction with the Chindits, and caused a number of the Japanese units to flee as a result of their ferocity.

 

Their fellow force members from the 81st (West Africa) Division fought in the Arakan alongside the Essex and other Regiments, these other African Soldiers also included soldiers from Gambia, Sierra Leone and the Gold Coast.

 

 

Female Section: WAS(B) or Women's Auxiliary Service (Burma).  Formed in 1942 the "Chinthe Women", living in uncomfortable and often dangerous conditions, manned mobile canteens supplying the frontline troops with the much need mug of 'char'. The service was comprised of women mainly of Anglo-Indian/Burmese origin.

 

Australian General Hospital, India  After the fall of Singapore, a lot of Australian Medical Personnel remained in India for the majority of the war.  Our female section occasionally portrays Australian Nurses.

 

 

 

 

5307th Composite Force (Galahad)

better known as “Merrills Marauders”

In August 1943 Churchill, Roosevelt and the Combined Chiefs of Staff met in Quebec at the Quadrant Conference, the American Government sanctioned the formation of an American Chindit Style force. 

 

Now “Operation Thursday” became a joint Allied Operation.  Drawn from units across the Pacific, it was a 3,000 strong volunteer unit to begin with. The final action of the Marauders was at Myitkyina Airfield where they attacked the Japanese in the hope to take back the airfield. This action saw the unit depleted to approximately 200 surviving members of the original unit.  As a result of their efforts, Stillwell awarded all members of the Marauders “The Bronze Star”.

 

 

 

 

 

Why Far East?

 

We believe that the soldiers who have, literally, served on the other side of the world, deserve recognition for their toils.

 

We had not come across any groups who portray the period in a Far Eastern Context, except as a Third/Fourth portrayal, or, do so alone.  So we decided to found this group.  We are also, without question, the first to have Asian Re-enactors, portraying Indian Army, and are amongst the first to feature African re-enactors, as mainstream Living Historians.   The Chindits featured men from every corner of the empire, and we have information on troops, so far, from: -

 


Australia                     Hong Kong                 New Zealand             Singapore                 

 

Burma                         India                            Nigeria                       South Africa              

 

Ceylon                        Nepal                          Rhodesia                   UK

           

 

Perhaps you know of a relative from another commonwealth or empire country…. Why not tell us.


RECRUITING NOW!

 

We are always looking for more new members. 

 

If you would like to join us please see our Membership Section.

 

Why Do We Do It?

 

 

Many people, coming across groups like ours for the first time, ask why we do this. This at first appears to be an easy question to answer, but is in fact complex.

 

Thousands of people in the UK take part in various historical re-enactments of many periods - we have a unique consideration over most of them - many people alive today lived through this period. Veterans who fought and civilians who lived through the period and endless years of suffering.  So we term ourselves, Living Historians.

  

We also have the ability to gather together actual items from the period, relying less on replicas. This means we must ensure that we are as correct as we possibly can be.

 

Why do it at all? There is a quote which says 'without a past, there can be no future'.

 

The period was made up of a series of achievements and disasters, a period where the final innocence of the world ended. A period encompassing so much; the death of an empire (Japan), and the fall of fascism, the rise of communism, and a whole list of other major events.  This period also lead to the fall of the British Empire, the rise of India, Pakistan & Bangladesh as separate states.  We learn from history in an attempt to prevent it repeating, by interpreting the period through living history our aim is to assist with this understanding and the individual achievements of the period.

 

We do not glorify war or any aspect of it, but we honour those who served their country, and are so often forgotten. In order to ensure we achieve our aims we work with the veterans of the units we portray.

 

We do not regard this as just a hobby - it is voluntary work, the rewards are achieving an accurate portrayal. As a society we do have a social side, but it is separate from the work of educating.

 

Why do we do it? Because we believe remembrance without understanding is not enough.

 

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