Monday, 7 November 2011

David Ramsay - Behind the Name

Kirriemuir Parish Church's Second World War memorial lists their war dead by unit and name but there is no other information. One of the names listed is D. Ramsay of the Black Watch.

Rank: Lance Corporal
Regiment/Service: Black Watch (Royal Highlanders)
Unit Text: 2nd Bn.
Age: 24
Date of Death: 04/08/1944
Service No: 2755969
Additional information: Son of Isabella Anderson Dickson, of Kirriemuir, Angus.
Casualty Type: Commonwealth War Dead
Grave/Memorial Reference: 13. H. 24.

In August 1944 2nd Battalion Black Watch was part of 14th Infantry Brigade, 3rd Indian Infantry Division also known as Special Force or more commonly The Chindits.

Orde Wingate's formation was conceived as an airborne large-scale raiding force which would be sent behind Japanese lines in force to disrupt communications and supply lines.

The life expectancy for a Chindit was not great. When in the field they suffered a lack of nearly all supplies and had very little respite from the Japanese, the jungle and the weather.

By the time Lance Corporal Ramsay died Orde Wingate was already dead. The man who had conceived of and led the Chindits was gone. Control of them then passed to the American commander of the Chinese forces in the area, General Stilwell. Stillwell had no real idea of what the Chindits were or were not capable of, and threw the lightly armed raiders into costly attacks on well defended Japanese-held towns.

The Chindits suffered horrendous casualties in the late summer of 1944 and were soon withdrawn for battle. Unfortunately it was too late for David Ramsay of Kirriemuir.

I'll be honest and admit that I don't have a great knowledge of the Chindits. My interest has always been centred more on the Western Europe campaign, and the Far East campaigns have always been a little bit of a mystery to me. A new book published recently may help to shed some light on that campaign.

"War in the Wilderness: The Chindits in Burma 1943-1944" by Tony Redding is an incredibly comprehensive account of the Chindit campaigns, drawing on interview of fifty veterans of the campaign. It is a remarkably detailed book, well illustrated and offering a new insight into a campaign which I, and possibly many others, possessed only scant knowledge of.

For those wishing to know more about this fascinating campaign, this book would be a valuable starting point.

Author Tony Redding and Chindit veteran John Hutchings were interviewed for BBC Radio 4's Today programme - you can hear that interview here.

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