Sunderland Flying Boats + Chindits


A Short Sunderland flying boat of RAF 230 Squadron is used to evacuate wounded and sick Chindits of 111th Brigade (3rd Indian Division (Special Force)) from behind Japanese lines at Lake Indawgyi, Burma, to Dibrugarh on the Brahmaputra River in Assam, India.

The credit for thinking up the idea of using Sunderlands is attributed to one Squadron Leader ‘Chesty’ Jennings, who was the senior Air liaison officer with 111th Brigade (Chindit). Royal Engineers created a 100 yard wide and over 2000 yard long landing strip clearing obstacles in the lake for the sircraft to safely land. The Lake was used extensively by the troops for many reasons apart from evacuation of casualties. There was a kind of Chindit Navy set up which ferried supplies and personnel about on make shift craft made up from tarpaulins and bamboo floats.

Indawgui Lake

The first to arrive in the Indawgyi Lake area from White City, was a column of the 7th Leicester’s, who immediately proceeded up the Kyunsalia Pass, leading to Hopin in the railway valley. On attaining the top of the pass, it was noted that a large party of Japanese was ascending the pass from the Hopin area, so an ambush was set, and very successfully sprung. The result, on the 20th May, meant that to deny the Japanese access to the Indawgyi Lake area, the pass and the surrounding hills had to be defended by alternating Columns of 3rd WA and 14th Brigades, until it was finally evacuated and blown up, on 20th June. The time taken for the Columns to arrive in the Indawgi Lake valley was such that those Columns that could be allocated to go to assistance of Blackpool were already too late. Beds and Herts of 14 Bde, after some skirmishes around the Kyunsalia Pass, were despatched up the western side of the lake to secure the area to the north of the lake. Further Columns of 14 Bde and W Africans secured the heights north of the pass and the southern end of the lake.

Due to the torrential rains, light planes could not always take off in the swampy conditions that existed, in any case they were far too infrequent for the ever-increasing number of sick. It was therefore hoped that 2 Sunderland Flying Boats flying from the Brahmaputra River in Assam, could land on the fairly secure Indawgyi Lake and take out the wounded and sick of the 3 Brigades. Boats were dropped to enable the brigade engineers to prepare the lake for the Flying Boats and for the ferrying of casualties. On 6th June 44 the radio announced that ‘the sky over France was black with planes’, the Chindits waiting at the side of the Indawgyi Lake wondered if just one Sunderland Flying Boat would arrive. In all, only 6 flights took place, evacuating 240 casualties (40 at a time) before being stopped on 11 June.

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