Right:  Tobruk, Christmas 1941.  Men of the 60th Field Regiment come out of the desert after 6 weeks hard fighting to return to Egypt to re-form.

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In the end, Operation Crusader fizzled out. The 60th
Field Regiment returned to Egypt to re-form and after
a spell of leave in Cairo they returned to Syria.  But
they were only there for a few days before they were
recalled.  Japan had entered the war and the lads from
Lincoln and Grimsby were on their way to the Far East.

But the Japanese captured their destination--Rangoon--whilst they were at sea, so they were diverted to Bombay.  They travelled overland across India to Calcutta and for several months they led a boring life training and re-training until they could do gun drills backwards in their sleep. 

Suddenly, there was a bombshell.  A second Chindit expedition into the jungles of Burma was being planned and men were needed.  The 60th Field Regiment, by now battle-experienced and very well-trained gunners, had to give up their 25-pounders and start learning to be infantrymen--worse, guerrillas.  There was a period of intense training in jungle warfare.

The 60th Field Regiment became numbers 60 and 88 columns in the 23rd Brigade--one of Major-General Orde Wingate's six new Chindit brigades.  Three of these brigades went into Burma to destroy the lines of communication of the Japanese who were fighting General Stilwell's Chinese and American troops to the north.  But by an odd coincidence, the Japanese launched their attack on India at the same time and there was bitter fighting around Imphal and Kohima. Wingate's other three brigades were originally intended to be reserves, but two of them were also soon sent into Burma.  After Wingate had been killed in an air crash General Slim didn't send the one remaining brigade -- the 23rd--to join the other five.  His priority was the defence of India--and the supply route into China--and the Japanese were attacking so ferociously that it was touch and go.  The 23rd Brigade's eight columns were ordered to go behind the lines of the Japanese who were attacking India.

So on the 22nd April 1944, the 60th Field Regiment's two columns, numbers 60 and 88, were the last two columns of the last of Wingate's six brigades to go into action.  They climbed up and down the mountains of the Naga hills, deep behind the enemy lines, in a climate which has the highest rainfall in the world.  Most of the men suffered malaria and the agonies of dysentery.  They were totally dependent on food and other supplies being dropped by air, but because of the weather it was sometimes impossible for supply drops to be made.  They established a "stronghold" (which they called "Grimsby") from which platoons were sent on 5-day trips looking for Japanese in the area.   An airstrip was made so that ill and wounded men could be airlifted out by light American aircraft.

Curious Naga tribesmen inspect American L5 aircraft on the airstrip at "Grimsby".

The two columns spent six weeks at "Grimsby" but didn't come across many Japanese.  Meanwhile, the battles around Imphal and Kohima were being won.  Two columns from the 1st Essex Regiment arrived at Grimsby and together the four columns set out to cut off the retreating Japanese.

They had another horrific journey up and down the hills, illness struck again and only 300 out of the 800 men were in any state to go on.  Whilst the 500 sick men slowly made their way towards the advancing  Allied forces the remaining men--not fit, but less ill than the others--set out to meet the retreating Japanese.  They only met a few stragglers.

The columns met up again at a place called Ukhrul  and slowly made their way towards Imphal.  The men who were very ill were carried on mules or stretchers, others staggered along helped by their friends.  Bearded, emaciated, faces turned a yellow-black colour with the effects of mepacrine anti-malaria tablets and wearing filthy, ragged clothes they presented a strange sight to the Allied forces trudging the other way.  Trucks were laid on for the last part of their journey into Imphal and as they moved down the hills they saw something they hadn't seen for weeks--flat land.  It was the 25th July 1944, and their long walk was over at last.