Orde Charles Wingate: Genius or Madman?

Discussion in 'General' started by Warlord, Dec 26, 2010.

  1. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    I'll put this down very simply:

    Was General Wingate a military genius, the worthy creator and leader of such legendary outfits as Gideon Force or the Chindits; or just an eccentric character that belonged more in an assylum than in the battlefield, responsible for the unnecesary deaths of hundreds of good soldiers?
     
  2. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    Wingate was a very talented soldier, albeit one with flaws, his operations in Abysinnya and with the Chindits developed new concepts on a learning curve with an evolving cycle of experience, an example for the Chindits would be that new logistical techniques and unit operational procedures needed to be introduced, Wingate was the man with the vision to bring these to fruition. It is easy to criticise with hindsight, however with Generals like Wingate and Stilwell we have to look at the material and mindset that they were working with. A lot of the Regimental officers were trained for conventional operations and taking the war to the Japanese in the jungle was a steep learning curve, military medical care was rudimentary compared to today so casualties were bound to be higher, and the simple things in life like rations and their preparation needed to be re-organised. Calvert in his book Fighting Mad comments on how many of the lessons learnt in Burma were forgotten by the late 1940s by new Regiments deployed to theatre and by logistics reverting back to 1939 state.
     
  3. Ron Goldstein

    Ron Goldstein WW2 Veteran WW2 Veteran Patron

    Warlord

    Orde Charles Wingate: Genius or Madman?

    I'll put this down very simply:
    Was General Wingate a military genius, the worthy creator and leader of such legendary outfits as Gideon Force or the Chindits; or just an eccentric character that belonged more in an assylum than in the battlefield, responsible for the unnecesary deaths of hundreds of good soldiers?


    Chapter and verse please ?

    Ron
    (Self confessed admirer of Orde Wingate)
     
  4. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    I've often thought about this one, mainly because I could, I suppose blame Wingate directly for my Grandfather's death. But I certainly do not.

    All the Chindits I have ever met, about 30, all have very extreme views of the man they were chosen to follow. There is no middle ground with them, they either adored him or hated him.

    All of them understood the difference his tactics and theories made in changing the way our forces operated against the Japanese from early 1943 onwards, but some could not forgive the seemingly callous way he used his troops.

    I have spoken to a man who was left on the wrong side of the Irrawaddy by Wingate himself and would quite happily throttle him, and an officer who was left just short of the Assam border by the great man, spending 2 years in Rangoon jail as a result and has pronounced Wingate's genius ever since!

    The men of 1944 believe that after Wingate's death in March 1944, that they were used as traditional infantry hence forth and left too long in theatre, where hundreds died of exhaustion and disease, they truly believe he would have prevented this.

    To answer the question here I would point toward the Japanese own views on Wingate as an adversary. All the major Japanese Generals and leaders in the Burma theatre state Wingate as a significant factor in their eventual demise. But more importantly, they adopted his tactic of using offensive action to form part of an overall defensive structure. I believe the fact that Chindit 1 managed to advance through seemingly impenetrable jungles of the Assam/Burma border, gave Mutaguchi his inspiration to march on Delhi.

    There is no doubt that Wingate was a difficult man to be in the company of, you either understood him or thought he was a mad man. Some of his ideas were incredibly forward thinking and ingenious, but he failed miserably to find a way to put these forward in a tactful or respectful way.

    The man was a maverick and often bordered insanity, but these are the men who sometimes just make the difference.
     
  5. Warlord

    Warlord Veteran wannabe

    Ron
    (Self confessed admirer of Orde Wingate)

    So am I, Ron, but after reading a couple of opinions against him, just felt the need to gather some more intel on the subject, which isn't about to change my view, anyway. Question had to refer to the eventual good or bad consecuences of his actions, for fairness sake.

    His contribution to the Hebrew State through the Special Night Squads, forerruners of the Palmach, is fact enough to gain my admiration (and this is no PR statement, believe me ;)).

    And that without even beginning to consider his way-ahead-of-the-times work with the Chindits...
     
  6. Jedburgh22

    Jedburgh22 Very Senior Member

    It would be fair to say he was one General the Japanese feared - he had to fight the war on two fronts - one against the Japanese and the other against entrenched 'staff' officers in the British and Indian armies - he was a man who was either loved or hated - but the concept of Long range penetration was shown to work and he certainly succeeded in his military objectives though at great loss which was probably justifiable in terms of results
     
  7. zahonado

    zahonado Well-Known Member

    Reviving an old thread as I found some comments about Wingate in a letter written by my father after the war which I found interesting.
    " I came across a surprising thing the other day. The Sudanese official who helps out the D. C., who works with me in Suakin, told me that he taught Wingate Arabic, way back in 1928! Apparently he had 20 years in the army before joining the administration and during the early part of his service he was in the Company that Wingate commanded as a major, and used to teach him colloquial Arabic! I have rarely heard such enthusiasm shown about anyone - he lost himself trying to find a suitable English words to describe his admiration! Apparently, even in those days, Wingate was quite unusual - and loved by the Sudanese. He was an expert on the Koran, before he finished and would read and explain it with all the thought and learning of an Arabic imam! So much so that even today, most of his company swear that he was a Muslim and certainly not a Christian! He used to give money and food to the poor in quite the Oriental tradition, and would welcome all the waifs and strays into his home and help them on their way! He was particularly well loved by that neglected section, the families of his soldiers, who even now still sing songs in his honour. He must have created a tremendous impression, as when he left his company he was given a tremendous send off, with all the women and children crying themselves to death at the station! I was amazed to hear all this from this man. It's mostly corroborates what one already knew -that he was a remarkable man. His very remarkableness of course made him the object of much ridicule and scorn from the more sophisticated, but I can't help feeling that in the long run, his true worth is really shown by his relationship with the Sudanese soldiers he commanded, and their families, rather than with the view taken of him by Europeans.
     
  8. von Poop

    von Poop Adaministrator Admin

    I'd still like to see a picture where the Onion is plainly visible.
     
  9. teletypeman

    teletypeman Senior Member

    Always have had a great liking for Wingate. Cannot abide Stillwell, worst General during WW2 (If any man used up soldiers this man did). Wingate at Quebec conference convinced Churchill and Roosevelt of the worth of Long range patroling. U.S. formed Merrill's Marauder's and Chindit #s Increased. Air support provided for these units and the Chinese. Some believe that T.E. Lawrence during WW1 was as strange as Wingate. Men living as bachelors for long times do strange thing and have weird habits.
    Genius/Insanity seperated by a fine line. I like that Wingate many time sided with the under dog and made them winners.
    Just my Thoughts

    Regards
    Ttyman
     
  10. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Good to know your thoughts teletypeman, Wingate was a distant cousin of Lawrence on his mother's side of the family I think. Both men struggled to fit in with the hierarchy of the day, but Wingate (as you say) had the ear of Churchill.

    These kind of individuals often make the difference in strongly contested theatres of war.
     
  11. wedgetail

    wedgetail Junior Member

    Hi All.

    Suggest you read "Fire in the night." By John Bierman & Colin Smith.

    Wingates autobiography. Complex but good reading.

    ISBN:- 0850524776 Pen & Sword Books.

    do :- 9781848848719

    originally published by MacMillan Books, London.

    Regards ...... wedgetail
     
  12. bamboo43

    bamboo43 Very Senior Member

    Hi All.

    Suggest you read "Fire in the night." By John Bierman & Colin Smith.

    Wingates autobiography. Complex but good reading.

    ISBN:- 0850524776 Pen & Sword Books.

    do :- 9781848848719

    originally published by MacMillan Books, London.

    Regards ...... wedgetail

    Thanks wedgetail, one of the better and more readable biographies on Wingate that one, another good choice is Tulloch's 'Wingate, In Peace and War'.
     

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