Derek Tulloch Papers

Scope and Content

Papers of Derek Tulloch relating mainly to his research into the life and work of Orde Wingate and the Chindit campaigns in Burma (1943-44).

Tulloch undertook extensive research for this book, using official records as well as some operational records he had retained from the second Chindit campaign.

Tulloch's papers comprises his small collection of wartime documents (TOW/1/1), his research notes (TOW/2/4) his correspondence files (TOW/2/6), published works on the campaigns (usually annotated by Tulloch), photographs (TOW/1/2) and draft chapters of his book (which went through many iterations) (TOW/2/5).

Tulloch's extensive correspondence is an important source of information for differing views of Wingate and the Chindits, and reflects Tulloch's excellent network of contacts. He corresponded with some of the surviving principals from this period including Chindit brigade commanders such as Bernard Fergusson, Michael Calvert, Tom Brodie, J R Morris, and US Air Commando personnel including Philip Cochrane, John Alison and Cortez Enloe, British Indian Army officers, as well as some of the Japanese participants. Outside of official records, the Tulloch papers are one of the largest and most important collections relating to Wingate and the Chindit campaigns. It is therefore important for assessments of the Chindits and for the historiography of the Allied campaigns in SE Asia during the Second World War.

Administrative / Biographical History

Derek Tulloch (1903-1974), was a senior Army officer, who served as Orde Wingate's chief of staff (Brigadier, General Staff) in the 3rd Indian Infantry Division (also known as Special Force or more popularly, the Chindits) during the Burma campaign. He was actively involved in the post-war controversies surrounding this campaign, and published an important defence of Wingate's leadership, Wingate in peace and war, in 1972.

Derek Tulloch was educated at Temple Grove School, Eastbourne, Haileybury College, and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich (a contemporary of Orde Wingate). He served as a staff officer with GHQ, British Expeditionary Force, 1939-1940 and was appointed Brigadier, General Staff with Special Force in 1943-44. Post-war he was BRA Southern Command, 1952-1954 and General Officer Commanding, Singapore Base District, 1954-1957. Tulloch was also ADC to the Queen, 1953-1955. At the time of his retirement, he had the rank of Major General.

Orde Wingate (1903-1944) was a significant but controversial British Army commander during the Second World War. He was known as an exponent of unconventional warfare, and achieved fame as commander of the Chindits in the Burma campaign before his untimely death in March 1944. Wingate, who grew up in a strict Christian Brethren household, was educated at Charterhouse and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was then commissioned in the Royal Artillery and later served in the Sudan Defence Force. In the late 1930s, he served in Palestine where he developed controversial counter-insurgency techniques. Wingate established the Special Night Squads, composed of Jewish auxiliary police and British officers, who fought Arab insurgents. This experience led to Wingate becoming a passionate supporter of the Zionist cause, as well as developing a consuming interest in unconventional warfare.

During the Second World War, he commanded 'Gideon Force', a special force of British officers, Sudanese soldiers and Abyssinian volunteers, which took part in the successful reconquest of Abyssinia in 1941. By now, Wingate was known for his innovative military thinking, which stressed the value of small groups of highly trained and motivated soldiers operating with maximum mobility against larger units of conventional forces. Wingate had also gained a reputation for being a difficult colleague, variously suspected of insubordination, arrogance and inflexibility.

In 1942, his talents were called on following the successful Japanese invasion of Burma. British forces were forced back to the Indian border with their position in South East Asia looking increasingly forlorn. Archibald Wavell, the British commander-in-chief in India, had been Wingate's patron earlier in his career, and respected his military ideas. Wingate was now invited to develop these ideas for operations in Burma. Wingate believed that as Japanese forces there were thinly stretched and did not have sufficient air support, they were vulnerable to mobile attacks in their rear. He proposed establishing Long Range Penetration (LRP) Groups to fight behind enemy lines, disrupting communications and supply through small-scale operations. LRP groups would be embedded in enemy territory for potentially long periods of time, and would establish bases, impenetrable to artillery and tank attack, which could be resupplied by air.

Wingate was authorised to develop his ideas in a Special Force, composed of British, Gurkha and Burmese units (later joined by the West African brigade during Operation Thursday). Special Force troops became known as the Chindits (the term deriving from the corrupted form of Chinthé, a mythical beast which guarded Buddhist temples, and the only one permitted in Buddhism to use force). In 1943, Chindit units were tested in an operation (Operation Longcloth) in northern Burma (originally, this was to have been part of a larger British counter-offensive). Despite suffering many casualties, Wingate was able to demonstrate that his units could operate effectively in enemy territory, causing damage to communications and forcing the Japanese to contemplate a new offensive against north-east India to discourage further Chindit-type interventions into the interior of Burma.

Although Wingate's ideas (and personality) were not popular with the British command in India, he did win support from Churchill's government and with the new allied commander for South East Asia, Lord Louis Mountbatten. Wingate was authorised to expand his LRP forces for a new campaign in early 1944. This was originally intended to be part of a larger campaign to reconquer Burma, working in assistance with US and Chinese forces. However, limited Allied resources and the increasing likelihood of a Japanese advance into Assam forced a reconsideration of this offensive. It was decided that the Chindits would operate independently within Burma to disrupt Japanese communications to their Assam front-line. If successful, this would allow for larger LRP operations in Burma in future, and encourage the Chinese (Kuomintang) forces to move into north Burma.

The Chindit operation, known as Operation Thursday, commenced in early March 1944 and focussed on the town of Indaw, an important communications centre between the rivers Chindwin and Irrawaddy. Capture of this town would gravely weaken Japanese troops facing the Chinese in north Burma. Four Chindit brigades were initially deployed in Operation Thursday: 14th, 16th, 77th and 111th, later supported by the 3rd West African brigade which garrisoned the strong points (the 23rd Brigade operated independently as a support force closer to the Kohima-Imphal front line). Brigades were flown or marched in to establish strong points near to the Indaw area, from where they launched operations. A novel feature of the operation was the close working between land and air forces, developing new techniques of forward air control to support air attacks on the Japanese, and to keep Chindit groups resupplied. Much of this work was done by the US 1st Air Commando, which worked effectively with the Chindits. The US also proved vital to the viability of the operation by providing weapons, walkie-talkies and K-rations.

The Chindits succeeded in blocking the north-south Burma railway at a point named White City, and were also able to attack communications south of Indaw, which were supplying the Japanese 15th Army. An attempt to capture Indaw however was not initially successful, and this proved to be a controversial episode in assessments of the Chindit campaign. Wingate's critics later claimed he had dispersed Chindit forces in multiple operations, instead of focussing on Indaw; Wingate's defenders pointed to inadequate reinforcements, despite earlier commitments to providing these. By the time the Indaw attack had stalled, Wingate had been killed in an air crash on 23 March 1944. Command of the Chindit units was then assumed by Brigadier "Joe" Lentaigne (1899-1955) who continued the operation and led the Chindits until they were disbanded in 1945 (Tulloch became deputy commander of the Chindits).

The rest of the 1944 campaign saw the Chindits redeploying to the north of Indaw (which they had finally taken at the end of April), where they collaborated with US-Chinese forces under General Joseph Stilwell. In this phase, the Chindits were engaged in bloody battles at Mogaung and Myitkyina, two towns on the northern rail line, whose capture was seen as vital to restoring the "Burma Road" supply line between India and China (a key US objective). By the summer of 1944, the Chindit groups were exhausted and facing inhospitable monsoon conditions, so they were gradually withdrawn to India and China. Thereafter, the Japanese offensive against Assam broke down, and Allied forces were able to retake significant areas of northern Burma by the end of the year.

As the senior staff officer at Chindit HQ, Derek Tulloch was heavily involved in the planning of Operation Thursday, and was privy to Orde Wingate's strategic thinking and operational methods. Tulloch was later one of Wingate's doughtiest defenders against criticisms levelled against him in the official histories of the campaign, mostly written by S. Woodburn Kirby (an Indian Army officer with whom Wingate had fallen out during the war). Critics such as Kirby and Field Marshal William Slim, who led the ultimately successful Burma campaign during 1944-45, deprecated Wingate's strategic thinking, arguing that he exaggerated the Chindits' potential contribution to the reconquest of Burma. Slim believed that victory come only from a decisive clash with the Japanese after the Assam situation had stabilised, when the Allies would counter-attack with a significant superiority in numbers; this option was not available in early 1944 and the Chindits did not offer a realistic alternative.

Post-war Tulloch, together with Peter Mead, Robert Thompson and Michael Calvert, defended Wingate's reputation, arguing that his concept of Long Range Penetration (LRP) groups had largely worked in Burma. The Chindits had been able to operate effectively deep behind enemy lines, disrupting the enemy's decision-making processes at a crucial time during the Assam offensive. Wingate had also succeeded in developing a highly effective air supply and support system to sustain LRP operations, working very effectively with the Americans. Tulloch had initially assisted the official historians, but was deeply shocked at the (personalised) criticisms of Wingate made in the third volume on the SE Asian campaign published in 1961. Tulloch thereafter began work on a monograph which he hoped would restore Wingate's reputation. This was published as Wingate in peace and war (Macdonald 1972), and it reawakened interest in the Chindits.


  • TOW/1 Second World War documents
  • TOW/1/1 Operational records
  • TOW/1/2 Photographs
  • TOW/2 Post-second World War Papers
  • TOW/2/1 Commentaries and memoirs relating to the Chindit campaigns
  • TOW/2/2 Publications relating to the Burma campaigns
  • TOW/2/3 Lecture notes
  • TOW/2/4 Research notes
  • TOW/2/5 Draft chapters
  • TOW/2/6 Correspondence files
  • TOW/2/7 Miscellaneous

Access Information

The collection is open to any accredited reader.

The collection includes material which may be subject to the Data Protection Act 2018. Under the Act 2018 (DPA), The University of Manchester Library (UML) holds the right to process personal data for archiving and research purposes. In accordance with the DPA, UML has made every attempt to ensure that all personal and sensitive personal data has been processed fairly, lawfully and accurately. Users of the archive are expected to comply with the Data Protection Act 2018, and will be required to sign a form acknowledging that they will abide by the requirements of the Act in any further processing of the material by themselves.

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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.

Appraisal Information

The collection has been appraised. Photocopies of war office documents held by the National Archives, WO 203/5162, 5215, 5216, 5217 have been removed and destroyed. None of these documents were annotated.

Custodial History

The collection was accumulated by Derek Tulloch during his active military service and in the post-war period when he was writing Orde Wingate in Peace and War (1972). The collection was also used by another historian of the Chindits, Peter Mead. Peter Mead acted as an intermediary for this collection, which was donated by Tulloch's widow to the University of Manchester Library in 1978.

Related Material

The library holds further collections relating to Wingate and the Burma campaigns:

The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, King's College, London and the Imperial War Museum, Department of Documents hold collections of Orde Wingate papers. The IWM also hold the papers of Michael Calvert, another Chindit officer who defended Wingate's reputation.


Derek Tulloch, Wingate in Peace and War, (London: Macdonald and Co, Ltd., 1972). Peter Mead, Orde Wingate and the Historians, (Braunton: Merlin Books Ltd., 1987). A recent assessment of Orde Wingate is Simon Anglim, Orde Wingate: Unconventional Warrior. (Pen and Sword: Barnsley 2014).

Maj-Gen S. Woodburn Kirby, History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The War Against Japan Vol II, India's Most Dangerous Hour, (London: HM Stationery Office, 1958) and History of the Second World War, United Kingdom Military Series: The War Against Japan Vol III, The Decisive Battles, (London: HM Stationery Office, 1961).

Geographical Names