Orde Wingate (1976)

 

 

 

Director:     Bill Hayes. 

Starring:    Barry Foster (Orde Wingate), James Cosmo (Brigadier Calvert), Arnold Diamond (Chaim Weizmann), Denholm Elliott (Senior Officer, Delhi), Bernard Hepton (Palmer), Sheila Ruskin (Lorna), Nigel Stock (General Wavell)l Norman Eshley (Bombardier),  Roger Hammond (Senior Officer), Sandor Eles (David Mitzman), Stanley Meadows (Yaacov), Garrick Hagon (Cochran), John Comer (Comedian),  Michael Golden (General Deverell),  Anthony Gardner (Clayton), John White (Lieutenant),  Clive Graham (Staff Officer),  Barry Linehan (General Slim),   Tutte Lemkow (Haile Selassie),  John Quarmby (Liaison Officer),  Bunny May (Stevens),  Dennis Chinnery (Reporter),  Anthony Verner (Pilot),  Warrior (Trevor Ward),  Tony Calvert (Radio Operator). 

play-like movie about commander Orde Wingate who became a Zionist during foreign service in Palestine and developed guerrilla tactics used by the Israelis; leads strikes into Burma in WWII

 

Spoiler Warning:  below is a summary of the entire movie. 

 

If I forget Thee O Jerusalem

India to Burma. Orde Wingate wants to recapture the whole of northern Burma.  They are sending 9,000 men far inside northern Burma by gliders.  77 Brigade is under Brigadier Calvert and will be carried 150 miles behind enemy lines.  111 Brigade will be under Brigadier Lemtayne (?spelling).  They will be going to Chouringee landing zone.  They will make a stronghold at Valmonk (?spelling).  16 Brigade will be under Brigadier Ferguson.  They will march from the Stillwell front and seize Longking and establish a stronghold north of Indor.  Two brigades will be held in reserve:  the 14th and 23rd.  The motto of the group is "No surrender!" 

At military school the guys are shouting for Wingate to come on and run the gauntlet.  But he would just walk right up to one fellow after another and just stare them down. 

India to Burma.  The Japanese put up obstacles to any landings by airplanes or gliders.

March 1932.  Libyan desert.  Wingate is in the Libyan desert.  He is searching for the lost oasis of Zerzura.  He walks by day (instead of night) so he can challenge himself mentally and physically.  He tests his body for what God has in store for him.  He eats only dates and biscuits and drinks only cod liver oil. 

He is a captain in the Sudan Defense Force.  Many people in the military think he has gone absolutely balmy.  After all, they speculate, he is a relative of Lawrence of Arabia.  They post him back to England. 

Wingate says to himself:  "I can't be a nobody.  I need a cause worth fighting for."  He meets a young woman from Australia named Norma Patterson, a fellow Scots person.  He marries her. 

India to Burma. Reconnaissance photos show that the Japanese have put logs on the Piccadilly landing area.

Wingate thinks about his father, Colonel George Wingate, who died at age 84.  He served in India for 32 years and had two years in the Sudan, as well as two years elsewhere.  Orde wants to go to staff college. 

India to Burma.  The decision is made to switch the landing area to Churingee. 

Wingate goes to Palestine.  He asks what the onions are like.  Why?  Because they are very good for you.  At his new office he is upset that no one on the staff knows Hebrew.  He himself knows Arabic.  He says he will learn Hebrew.  Wingate goes to the border to see how things are going.  He tells the Jewish leaders there that David Mitzman is a friend of his.  He enjoys himself in recreational activities with the Jews.  He tells them:  "I've come to help you to defend yourselves."  And to keep the peace.  Some of the leaders become frustrated with him and tell him to please go away.  But even when he goes, he always says he will be back.  Some say the man is a dreamer.  He was raised in the religious faith of the Plymouth Brethren  -- Old Testament readers and Puritans. 

Wingate sits nude on his desk.  He rubs his body with a tooth brush to get clean.  He says he wants to let the Jews defend their own homes.  As of now they cannot carry weapons.  Therefore, they are as defenseless as children. He goes again to Jewish leaders and tells them that he has a plan for their defense.  All he needs is their permission.  What he wants to know is if they want to fight.  Some of the leaders tell him that he is not fit to lead the Jews.  They don't want him there.  They also sayshe will need British permission and he won't be able to get it. 

Wingate wants British permission.  He wants an interview with General Wavell.  That's not so easy to get.  So he takes matters into his own hands.  He starts planning the defense of the northern settlements against Arab attacks.  He wants to recruit Jewish soldiers for night patrols.  There will be ten Jews to a squad.  His ultimate goal is to bring Israel into the British Empire.  With a defense force the Jews could protect the oil pipeline, as well as deter Arab attacks on Jewish settlements.  He boasts:  "Lawrence will be nothing compared to me." 

He has to get the backing of the Jewish leaders.  He goes to see Dr. Weizmann.  The good doctor is not very sympathetic to Wingate's views.  He is a man of peace, not war.  Wingate emphasizes that one day the Jews will have to fight if they are to have a nation.  They have to show that they are willing to fight for a nation. 

Wingate is dedicated to causes, not to the British administration, and this is considered bad among the British administrators.  But he gets General Wavell's approval for his defense plans.  Wingate talks to Dr. Weizmann again.  The doctor explains that their policy is to practice restraint.  Wingate is frustrated.  His wife tells him that the Jewish people just need something to focus their attentions.  Wingate says to himself:  "I feel fated to lead a nation.  Is it this the nation?"  He continues his push with the Jewish leaders.  He says they need to start a Jewish army.  And they do not have to worry about a war with the Arabs.  There won't be a war because Britain will stop the Arabs.  Some of the Jewish leaders says that with Hitler in Germany, their focus has to be on immigration.  They need to get as many Jews as possible out of Europe.  Wingate responds that he himself will train the Jews in their own defense:  "You cannot refuse."  He adds:  "For God's sake, let me help!"   He will use the Haganah to defend Jewish interests.  Jewish leader Yaacov listens intently and finally says:  "Maybe he's right."  He speaks on behalf of Wingate's ideas and now even Dr. Weizmann seems to be coming over to Wingate's side.

May 15, 1938.  British soldiers and Haganah soldiers will assemble together to defend the pipeline and Jewish settlements.  But, explains Wingate, their ultimate goal is to fight for the nation of Israel.  There will be no saluting for this is an army of patriots.  He ends with:  "May God bless us and all we stand for."  

June 3, 1938.  First action of the Special Night Squads.  Two Arabs are wounded and the rest of them dispersed. 

Wingate has definitely had some success.  But a big complaint is that he only carries out just those orders he wants to carry out and ignores the others.  Wingate gets permission to testify before the Royal Commission on Palestine.  He testifies.  He receives the Distinguished Service Award.  He and the special forces inflicted severe casualties on the enemy and Wingate himself was wounded in action.

Wingate goes to London.  There he celebrates his 64th birthday.  He complains to a lot of British politicians and Jewish leaders that the Jewish voice is being ignored.  And the Nazis are backing the Arabs.  One politicians who gives him a friendly reception is Winston Churchill. 

Wingate is back in Palestine.  But he receives some bad news.  The British are going to drastically reduce Jewish immigration.  And Britain will eventually withdraw from Palestine leaving a population that is only one-third Jewish.  The Jewish leaders in Palestine say that the whole thing is a complete sell-out.  They start making plans to occupy a Jewish refugee ship to make their point.  Wingate is so angry and frustrated that Weizmann urges him to go home:  "Don't destroy yourself here."  Wingate tells all that he will return.  Formally speaking to his defense forces in Palestine, Wingate says "If I forget thee oh Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning.  If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth . . .." 

India to Burma.  The ranking officer says he leaves the decision as to which landing zone (Broadway, Piccadilly or Churingee) to chose for the landing.  Orde and the officers around him suddenly realize that the reason why Broadway was not blocked by obstacles like Piccadilly was because the Japanese don't know about the Broadway landing zone.  Wingate decides for Broadway. 

 

For the Sword of the Lord and Gideon

 

India to Burma.  The planes are in the air pulling the gliders behind them. Wingate hears over the radio that they are down successfully.  He shouts in the phone:  "Marvelous news, well done!" Orde says he is leaving tonight for Broadway. 

Wingate says to the Jewish Palestinian leader Dr. Weizman:  "I'll stay.  I'll resign my commission."   But Weizman says "Don't destroy yourself here."

India to Burma.  Orde on a plane talks with a military reporter who is tickled by the boldness of the invasion.  The reporter says:  "A glider invasion!  The Japs will never believe it!"

Wingate's wife tells him that Weizmann called.  There have been some changes in Palestine.  Wingate says he will lead the defense forces, of course.  But his wife asks him if he really thinks the British would let him do this.  And soon enough, he gets a devastating notice.  He tells his wife:  "I am forbidden to set foot in Palestine again."  He can't even go there on leave from the military.  He is posted to Cairo to fight the Italians in North Africa. 

His new commander in Egypt asks him how he would lead an army into Libya.  "By establishing separate headquarters as near as possible to the enemy, completely self-contained with no lines of communication. . . . Supplied by air."  The commander thinks to himself:  "Supplied by air?  The man's mad." Wingate says he will write a memorandum on the invasion of Libya.  Later he asks the commander if he and the other officers read his memorandum.  They have and found it to be not feasible or appropriate.  Nevertheless, they want to use him in the invasion of Ethiopia.  They want him to help drive the Italians out of there. 

Generals Platt and Cunningham will be going in from the north and from the south.  They want Wingate to gather the rebels loyal to His Majesty Haile Selassie at Khartoum and head in from the west.  He is also to serve as the liaison with the Emperor. 

At their meeting, Haile Selassie asks Wingate if he is a man of honor.  He must know this because he fears that he is being used as a pawn by the British  The British have a department known as OETA (Occupation of Enemy Territory Administration) and they include Ethiopia in this.  He adds:  "I can trust no one."  Wingate responds:  "You can trust me, Your Majesty."  He is very amenable to the Emperor's request for improvements. 

Wingate talks to Gen. Wavell who tells him that General Sanford is already leading Ethiopian rebels.  Why should Wingate be allowed to take over?  "Because I believe in their cause" says Wingate.  He will appeal to the sense of patriotism among the rebels to get them to fight well.  They will fight to liberate their country.  This seems o.k. with the commander.  He has already decided to let Wingate lead the rebels.  He will be an acting Colonel.  "But obey orders!  I'd like this to be a chance for you.  Don't spoil it!"

India to Burma.  Wingate explains his strategy to the newspaper man.  From their stronghold fortress:  ". . . we go out in columns to attack the enemy.  At the same time we put up floating company around the fortress so that when the enemy attacks us the floater comes in from behind and traps them against the stronghold like a nutcracker." 

Wingate sees Haile Selassie.  He says he will lead the men to victory.  He says to himself:  "I have a cause!"  He explains to the Ethiopians that the main task is to gain freedom for their country.  They are patriots, not rebels.  And they are now part of a unit he has named the Gideon Force, in honor of that great Jewish fighter for freedom. 

Wingate tells Haile Selassie that they have crossed the border.  " . . . you are once again standing on Ethiopian soil."

Wingate argues with his supply officer who stands up to the acting Colonel.  A Jewish Palestinian doctor arrives to serve with Wingate in Ethiopia.  He tells Orde that they have arrested some of their men for carrying arms.  Order says he needs a great victory.  Then they will give him two Jewish divisions. 

February 17, 1941.  Heading to Belayah (spelling?).  They reach the plateau without opposition.  Wingate with 200 patriots faces 7,000 Italian troops.  Orde says they must deceive the enemy.  A report comes in that all the camels are dead.  The grass in the highlands is poisonous for them. 

Things go wrong in what Wingate calls his first professional battle.  He says to himself:  "My genius was not evident."  Where did he go wrong, he wonders. The supply officer is happy to tell him.  There were four mistakes:  1)  too much movement during daylight hours;  you kept your baggage train in a single body that could have been wiped out with one blow; you charged the fort with your entire force; and the Italians have large reinforcements available and good lines of communication where your lines of communication have broken down. 

The Italians are retreating.  But Gen. Cunningham wants Wingate to keep his Italians where they are.  He tells His Majesty that his superiors tell him that they must remain where they are.  The Emperor wants to move on.  Orde sides with him.

The next obstacle is the Fort of Deboronarcas (spelling?).  This time Wingate has 300 patriots, but the Italians have 12,000 men.  They are able to reach and enter the fort, but they only find that the Italians have gone, pulled out.  Meanwhile, Cunningham takes the capital Addis Ababa.  But the British will not let the Emperor return to the capital as of yet.  The Emperor says he knew it.  Wingate asks permission of Cunningham to take the Emperor to his capital.  Orde is of the opinion that he will fight the British Empire when it works for oppression.  Cunningham says the Emperor must be delayed under all circumstances, but short of force.  Orde decides to take His Majesty to the capital anyway.  The Emperor wants to arrive on May 5.  He wants a large open car like Mussolini. 

The Emperor is very grateful to Col. Wingate.  He gives the Colonel some small gifts.  He will also name a town or a place in his honor.  Somewhere that is not associated with cruelty, says Wingate.  He says that the Emperor has been executing many of his enemies. 

The Germans have invaded Greece.  Cunningham disbands Gideon Force.  Orde comments:  "The break up of Gideon force while the need for it still exists is the mark of a military ape."  Orde is also demoted to major. 

India to Burma.  The fighting continues in Burma.  Mules are used to carry the military supplies. 

Wingate is back with his commander in Egypt. The Ethiopians of the Gideon Force will not be receiving their allowances.  Gideon was not classified as a unit.  They were irregular troops.  And the request was not put in at the right time.  The commander says that Wingate wrote a letter to His Majesty (of Britain) after his Palestinian adventure.  He tells Wingate:  "If you are not satisfied with the decisions taken here, I suggest you drop His Majesty another line."  Wingate says they will lose the war ". . . through stupidity, deceit and dishonor, sir." 

Wingate is very sick.  He writes a letter on behalf of his Ethiopian patriot forces.  Wingate takes his medicine while reading over his letter.  He also wants independence for Ethiopia. 

General Wavell confronts Wingate with his behavior.  Wingate said that Cunningham is a military ape and that the British are no better than the Nazis.  He had a great triumph at Akibar, but then he says nothing about it in his report.  His staff wants him to court-martial him.  He needs his genius, but nobody will work with him.  And, now, get to the hospital.  Wingate goes to see his immediate commander.  He asks him about the report he sent in.  The commander says that they destroyed the report for both his and their benefit.  Wingate demands to know if Wavell has heard about this.  The commander says that Wavell is gone.  Auchincloss has taken over. 

Wingate is so distraught that he tries to kill himself by taking a knife to his throat.  He fails in the attempt. 

India to Burma.  Wingate is still at the front of the action.  They have 20 wounded; double that for the Japanese. 

In the hospital Wingate is in delirium.  He took too many Atabrin (spelling?) tablets someone says.  He is either to be court-martialed or sent to a loony bin says someone else.  The Jewish Palestinian doctor visits him and Wingate informs him he tried suicide for Ethiopia, not for Zion. 

Orde's commander again tells him that the Ethiopian troops cannot have the allowances.  But they do have Orde's allowance for him.  Wingate crumbles it up.  He will keep fighting for the allowances for all his men.  The commander says that the medical board will find him mad as a hatter. 

India to Burma. Wingate is going by airplane to see how Ferguson and 16 Brigadeare doing.  This is just a start, he says.  We'll take the whole of northern Burma in a few months.    (We don't see it, but his plane crashes, killing him.)

 

Good movie.  That Wingate fellow was surely a very eccentric person and the movie makes this clear.  He was definitely a romantic dreaming of visions of accomplishing something great like leading a people in the creation of a new nation.  He always had to have a cause to fight for so he could get really get excited and passionate.  He did accomplish things  He was not a great tactician or strategist.  Rather he was best at using his high levels of excitement to inspire other men to share his romantic visions of better things to come if the men will just fight for them.  He was a great recruiter.  And so in tune with the Bible was he, that he could use prophetic language to help motivate the men who came to serve under him.  He was a very flawed man, but basically a very good man.  His moral code was higher than that of just his country or his religion.  He fought against injustice whatever its source, while also fighting for justice.    

Patrick Louis Cooney, Ph. D. 

 


Historical Background:

 

1903 (Feb. 26)  --  Orde Wingate born in Naini Tal, India.  He father was a Colonel in the British Army.  His mother was from a missionary family of the Plymouth Brethren.  His parents gave him a very religious education.  He was  even introduced to Christian Zionism.  He would spend days reading and memorizing the Old Testament.  His father had him practicing a harsh physical regimen of long marches.

1921 --  at the age of 18, Wingate was accepted into the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich.  Wingate, to be punished for a minor infraction, is forced to run the gauntlet, but he doesn't run it.  Instead he confronts each man on the gauntlet line and dares him to strike him.  None does and he gets through the line without a welt. 

1923   --  Wingate receives his commission as a gunnery officer.  He starts learning Arabic and his Uncle, Sir Reginald Wingate, Governor General of Sudan, gets him assigned in Sudan. 

1928  --  Wingate joins the Sudan Defense Forces.  He patrolled the Abyssinian border with the assignment of catching slave traders and ivory poachers. 

end of his tour in Sudan  --  he led a short expedition to search for Zerzura, but never found it. 

1933  -- his tour in Sudan ends. 

1935 --  Wingate marries Lorna Moncrieff Paterson (who was only sixteen years old).

1936 --  Wingate assigned to a staff position as an intelligence officer in the British Mandate of Palestine.  The Arab Revolt was occurring at the time.  Arab guerrillas would attack British mandate officials and Jewish communities.

Almost immediately Wingate saw the opportunity to create a Jewish State.  He tied this in his own mind to his religion's emphasis on Christian prophecy.  To obtain his goal he started allying himself with Jewish political leaders.  He was especially attracted to Zionist leaders.

Wingate came up with the idea of using British-led Jewish commandos acting as a defense force against Arab attacks.  He got General Archibald Wavell to approve the plan and then convinced the Zionist Jewish Agency and Haganah to do the same. 

1938 (June)  --  the new British commander, General Haining, approved the Special Night Squads based on Wingate's ideas. 

Wingate was active in the implementation of his ideas, training, commanding and accompanying the Special Night Squads.  They worked somewhat in a vigilante style imposing their own, severe punishments. Zvi Brenner and Moshe Dayan trained under him and claimed that Wingate had "taught us everything we know."

1938  --  he received the DSO, awarded for meritorious or distinguished service.

But then Wingate went a little too far.  Back in Britain on leave he spoke out in favor of the formation of a Jewish state during his leave in Britain.  He was removed from command.  The problem was his had his own political agenda that often did not match that of the army or the government. 

1939 (May)  --  transferred back to Britain. Wingate was a hero in the Jewish community.  

1939-1945  --  World War II.   Gen. Wavell, now Commander-in-Chief of Middle East Command, invited Wingate to help fight the Italian occupation forces in Ethiopia.  The force of British, Sudanese and Ethiopian soldiers he created was known as the Gideon Force. 

1941 (February)  --  the Gideon Force (of around 1,700 men) began operation.  Led by Wingate they attacked Italian forts and supply lines.  main forces of the Italian army. They captured or accepted 20,000 Italians as P.O.W.s. 

1941 (April)  Wingate mentioned in dispatches.

1941 (May)  --  the Gideon Force accompanied the return of Emperor Haile Selassie to Addis Ababa. 

1941 (December)  -- awarded a second DSO. 

1941 (June 4)  -- end of the East African Campaign. 

Wingate gets malaria.  His doctor gave him a drug that made him feel depressed.  He even tried to stab himself to death with a jab to the neck. 

Wavell becomes the Commander-in-Chief in India commanding the South-East Asian Theatre. 

1941 (February 27)  --  Wingate leaves Britain for Rangoon, Burma. 

1942 (March)  --  arrives in the Far East.  Starts organizing guerrilla units to fight behind the Japanese lines. At first he did not accomplish much. 

1942 (April)  --  flies to India in April.  Talks about the need for long range penetration behind enemy lines.  General Wavell gave him the Indian 77th Infantry Brigade.  From this he created his long range penetration force.  He named them the Chindits from the name of a mythical Burmese lion, the Chinthe.

1942 (August)  --  Wingate got into trouble.  He would train his men in the Indian jungle during rainy season and many of the men became sick.  (In one battalion 70% of the men were sick.)  He was also so eccentric, like walking around naked, that he turned off many of the men.  (But General Wavell and his connections saved him.)

1942 (September)  --  many of Wingate's sick men were replaced.

1943  -- the British offensive into Burma cancelled, so Wingate gets Wavell's permision to go into Burma to disrupt a Japanese attack on Sumprabum. (The name of the operation was Operation Longcloth.)

1943 (Feb. 12)  --  the Chindits leave Imphal.  They cross the Chindwin River.  They took out one of the main railways. They crossed the Irrawaddy River into hard times.  The Japanese were thick in the area and interdicted many of their supply drops.  The men became exhausted. thirsty and hungry.  

1943 (March 22)  --  Eastern Army HQ orders Wingate to withdraw back to India. The Chindit force splits into small groups to hit different small targets as they headed back to India.  Soon the Japanese had three divisions out looking for the Chindits. The force suffered heavy losses.  The men got back to India by various routes.  (Some had to go through China to get back.)  Because of the penetration of Burma by the Chindits, the Japanese planned an offensive for 1944 into India. (Later the Japanese said the Chindits had completely disrupted their plans for the first half of 1943.)

Wingate wrote a report about his penetration into Burma and the report was directed into the hand of Churchill. Churchill took Wingate and his wife along to the Quebec Conference.  Wingate got the opportunity to explains his idea of deep penetration warfare to both Churchill and Roosevelt.  He so impressed the leaders that they approved the idea of deep penetration attacks.

On his way back to India, he drinks some bad water.  Back in India, Wingate became an acting major general.  He was also given command of six brigades. He contracted typhoid fever from drinking that bad water on his way back to India.

1944  --  Wingate decides to proceed into Burma.  This time he establishes fortified bases in Burma from which the Chindits conducted their operations.

1944 (March 6)  --  new Chindits established base areas in Japanese territory in Burma about the same time that the Japanese launched an invasion of India. The Chindits were very useful because they both disrupted the offensive and diverted Japanese troops from the battles in India.

1944 (March 24)  --  flying from Imphal to Lalaghat, Wingate's plane crashed into the jungle near Bishenpur.  He was killed along with nine others. 

 

 

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