Michael Calvert. A True Hero and Warrior

8 Nov

Hello Everybody,
Ever since I was very young, I have always been interested in the War in Burma. This came about; because of a young man in our street named Jackie Williams was killed in action there. There are three names that always crop up, when one reads about the Burma campaign. They are Slim, Wingate and Calvert. It is the latter that most intrigues me, Michael Calvert D.S.O. He was born in Rohtak, Delhi India where his father was a District Commissioner. He was educated at Bradfield College at eighteen years of age he went onto the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich. Although he was commissioned into the Royal Engineers, Michael Calvert went onto Cambridge and studied mechanical science where he obtained an honours degree. He re-joined the Royal Engineers and was sent to Hong Kong then on to Shanghai. The Japanese- China was in full swing and while in Shanghai Michael Calvert went with Chinese forces has a hidden observer and saw first-hand how accomplished in warfare were the Japanese.
Just before the outbreak of the Second World War in 1939 Calvert returned home to England and was sent on to a Special Forces School where he was taught ambushes, setting explosive etc. with Michael Calvert being a good boxer the hand to hand fighting taught was just down his alley. He was sent onto Norway which was a bit of a disaster for the British Forces and we had to evacuate or being captured by the Germans. While on the retreat in Norway Calvert became very accomplished at setting booby traps, before he was eventually evacuated back to England.
When Japan entered the War he was sent out to Burma as chief instructor at the Bush Warfare School in Maymio. Here he taught British and Australian officers and NCOs Guerrilla fighting. Always trying to get into the fray he eventually got his wish and was involved in many skirmishes in the British retreat through Burma. Back in India he met Orde Wingate. Calvert was totally inspired by with what Wingate had to say. The rest is history the Chindit expeditionary forces into enemy held territories were formed.
The first Chindit expedition into enemy country consisting of 3000 men was Operation Longcloth was in February 1943 Michael Calvert led one of the three Chindit expeditions. These expeditions proved the British Forces could match the Japanese at jungle fighting, providing they were trained properly for jungle warfare. By the end of April, after the mission of three months, the majority of the surviving Chindits had crossed the Chindwin River, having marched between 750–1000 miles Of the 3,000 men that had begun the operation, a third (818 men) had been killed, taken prisoner or died of disease, and of the 2,182 men who returned, about 600 were too weak from their wounds or disease for them to return to active service. Of the remaining men, Wingate practically handpicked those few he would retain, while the rest were put back to their old army units. One very notable skirmish happened on March 17th Calvert noticed that a company of South Staffordshire’s under his command was taking heavy fire from the Japanese forces who were dug in on the high ground surrounding a Pagoda. Making his way over to the South Staffordshire’s he decided something had to be done about the situation very quickly!
He then shouted to everyone that they were going to charge the Pagoda Hill. There were reinforcements on our left flank who would charge as well. So, standing up, Calvert shouted out ‘Charge’ and ran down the hill towards the Japanese. Half of the South Staffordshire’s joined in. Then looking back he found a lot had not. So shouting out through the top of his voice he told them to bloody well ‘Charge, what the hell you think you’re doing.’ So they charged. Everyone charged including the machine-gunners, mortar teams and all officers. The fighting quickly degenerated into a free-for-all. Calvert later said the action was an “extraordinary melee. Everyone got involved in the shooting, bayoneting, and kicking at their enemies. After a slight pause in the fighting a final charge by Calvert won the day. After the battle, the hill was a horrid sight, littered with Jap dead, and already the ones who had been killed there earlier in the day were black with flies. Stretcher-bearers were removing our wounded and our mercifully very few dead.. Lieutenant George Cairns although dying of his wounds was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross. He had killed several Japanese after one of his arms had been severed with a sword. There were twenty British troops killed in the battle with over 50 Japanese. Michael Calvert was awarded the DSO for his actions. He was known to men under his command has Mad Mike Calvert. There was no doubt he was a brave leader of men. The end of April, after the mission of three months, the majority of the surviving Chindits had crossed the Chindwin River, having marched between 750–1000 miles. Of the 3,000 men that had begun the operation, a third (818 men) had been killed, taken prisoner or died of disease, and of the 2,182 men who returned, about 600 were too week from their wounds or disease to return to active service. Of the remaining fit men, Wingate handpicked those few he would retain, while the rest were put back under the normal army command structure as part of their original battalions.
Michael Calvert suffered along with the rest of the expedition with malaria, dysentery and many jungle ailments. After a few months of recuperation he returned to active service and the planning of the second Chindit Operation named Thursday. This operation commenced on March 5th 1944, with 20,000 allied troop taking part. This time 10,000 of the Chindits were going in by gliders to designated areas. Michael Calvert was promoted to temporary Brigadier and again commanded one of the large patrols going by glider. The actions, by men of the Chindit patrols, have been written many times by men who fought in those patrols. All the men of different nationalities, who took part, were brave men indeed. When, one talks about heroes you need no further to look than the men who were part of the Chindit expeditions. By July 1944 it was clear that the Chindits were exhausted by continuous marching and fighting under heavy monsoon rains, and were withdrawn. By the end of the campaign the Chindits had lost 1,396 killed and 2,434 wounded. Over half the remaining men had to be hospitalized with a special diet afterwards. During Operation Thursday Orde Wingate was killed in a plane crash while visiting his troops. All troops serving in the 14th Army under Field Marshal Slim were trained to Chindit standards in the defeat of the Japanese in Burma.
Michael Calvert was returned to England with a foot injury while playing rugby in India. When, this was cleared up between his many bouts of malaria. He successfully commanded a Polish regiment in the European war which by then was drawing to a conclusion. At the end of the Second World War he taught at special operation schools both at home and abroad, especially In the Malayan Campaign. It was here that his expertise was gratefully received and executed.
He was court-martialed for an alleged act of indecency and dismissed from the army in 1952 while serving in Germany. Until the day Michael Calvert died, he denied the allegations against him. For such a brave man as Calvert, this should have been sorted out and not just been shoved under the table and forgotten. He later wrote three books about his career in the forces. He travelled a lot but, suffered terribly with his health from the actions in the Far East. Michael Calvert DSO and Bar died on the 26th November at Richmond-upon- Thames in 1998, aged 85. Personaly I have always had total respect for the brave men who fought and still fight for our country. To me the Chindits were something special and to be led by such a man as Michael Calvert. He was indeed a leader of very brave men, a leader who no doubt was a hero and warrior.
Alan

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