War in the Wilderness is the most comprehensive account ever published of the human aspects of the Chindit war in Burma. The word `Chindit' will always have a special resonance in military circles. Every Chindit endured what is widely regarded as the toughest sustained Allied combat experience of the Second World War. The Chindit expeditions behind Japanese lines in occupied Burma 1943-1944 transformed the morale of British forces after the crushing defeats of 1942. The Chindits provided the springboard for the Allies' later offensives.
The two expeditions extended the boundaries of human endurance. The Chindits suffered slow starvation and exposure to dysentery, malaria, typhus and a catalogue of other diseases. They endured the intense mental strain of living and fighting under the jungle canopy, with the ever-present threat of ambush or simply `bumping' the enemy. Every Chindit carried his kit and weapons (equivalent to two heavy suitcases) in the tropical heat and humidity. A disabling wound or sickness frequently meant a lonely death. Those who could no longer march were often left behind with virtually no hope of survival. Some severely wounded were shot or given a lethal dose of morphia to ensure they would not be captured alive by the Japanese.
Fifty veterans of the Chindit expeditions kindly gave interviews for this book. Many remarked on the self-reliance that sprang from living and fighting as a Chindit. Whatever happened to them after their experiences in Burma, they knew that nothing else would ever be as bad.
There are first-hand accounts of the bitter and costly battles and the final, wasteful weeks, when men were forced to continue fighting long after their health and strength had collapsed. War in the Wilderness continues the story as the survivors returned to civilian life. They remained Chindits for the rest of their days, members of a brotherhood forged in extreme adversity.
Tony Reddingis a former journalist and the author of Flying for Freedom: Life and Death in Bomber Command and Best Endeavours: Inside the World of Marine Salvage. He is a member of the Institute of Public Relations."