Peter Mead Papers

  • Reference
      GB 133 MOW
  • Dates of Creation
      1944-1982
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      English
  • Physical Description
      0.3. li.m.
  • Location
      Collection available at John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

This is a small collection of Mead's papers; the most significant item is a copy of his unpublished memoir "Chindit HQ" written after Operation Thursday in which mead gives a very detailed account of the campaign as seen from the vantage of the Chindit HQ staff. There is also a draft copy of Orde Wingate and the Historians, published by Merlin Books in 1987 and an offprint of his shorter article "Orde Wingate and the Official historians", Journal of Contemporary History 14 1979.

Former reference: OW

Administrative / Biographical History

Peter Mead was a career soldier who served between 1931 and 1964. During the Second World War, he was a member of the headquarters staff of Special Force (3rd Indian Infantry Division or more popularly, the Chindits). He served in the general staff section during the second Chindit campaign (Operation Thursday). Mead specialised in matters of air transport, which was a critically important part of Operation Thursday. Post-war Mead continued as a career soldier, and he concluded his career as commandant of the Air Army Corps from 1961 to 1964 (with the rank of brigadier).

In his retirement, Mead undertook intensive research into the Chindit campaigns. Working with former senior officers in the Chindit campaign including Derek Tulloch and Sir Robert Thompson, he was an outspoken defender of Orde Wingate, who he believed had been singled out for unfair criticism in the official war histories, specifically S Woodburn Kirby History of the War against Japan, vol 2 (1958) and vol 3 1961). He was also highly critical of Viscount Slim's Defeat into victory (1956), which he felt underplayed Wingate's strategic contributions during the 1943-44 campaigns. Slim was commander of the 4th Corps, and responsible for the successful Allied campaign in Burma after the relief of Imphal and Operation Thursday.

Mead believed the official histories had mendaciously portrayed Wingate as dishonest and inept during the second Chindit campaign (Operation Thursday). They charged that he harboured grandiose plans to expand Chindit forces so they would become the focus of the liberation of South-East Asia, and more specifically, that his objectives during Operation Thursday were unrealistic, and risked Allied Forces on the main Assam front. Wingate, it was alleged, had tried to use Chindit forces in conventional operations, such as the attempt to seize the town of Indaw, for which they were not equipped, and also that he had made promises to his brigade commanders about reinforcements which he knew could not be fulfilled.

Mead challenged these interpretations and tried (unsuccessfully) to persuade the Cabinet Office to revise the official historical accounts. He argued that Wingate had accepted the limitations of his objectives during Operation Thursday, had cooperated effectively with the RAF and US air forces and had been subject to the whims of his superiors about resupplying his forces. Mead also believed that Wingate's concept of strongholds as bases for insurgency operations was sound. He argued that many of the difficulties of the Chindits' second campaign after Wingate's death under the leadership of Joe Lentaigne, who was himself under the overall command of the US general Joseph Stillwell. High Chindit casualties during this phase of the operations being due to Stillwell’s unrealistic objectives with limited supplies and operating in difficult monsoon conditions. Mead summed up this case for the defence in Orde Wingate and the Historians, published in 1987.

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The collection was donated to the Library by Peter Mead c. 1987.

Separated Material

Another copy of Chindits HQ is held by the Imperial War Museum Department of Manuscripts.

Conditions Governing Use

Photocopies and photographic copies of material in the archive can be supplied for private study purposes only, depending on the condition of the documents.

A number of items within the archive remain within copyright under the terms of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988; it is the responsibility of users to obtain the copyright holder's permission for reproduction of copyright material for purposes other than research or private study.

Prior written permission must be obtained from the Library for publication or reproduction of any material within the archive. Please contact the Head of Special Collections, John Rylands Library, 150 Deansgate, Manchester, M3 3EH.

Accruals

None expected.

Related Material

The Library also holds the papers of Derek Tulloch TOW, a senior staff officer in the Chindits and a close collaborator of Mead in defending Wingate. In addition, there are three further collections relating to Wingate and the Chindits: the George Dunlop papers DOW, the Malcolm Hey Papers HOW (relates to Wingate's service in Palestine), and the William Brockbank papers relating to medical aspects of the Chindit campaign (BCM.

Bibliography

Peter Mead, Orde Wingate and the Historians (Braunton 1987).

Geographical Names