Orde Wingate

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Major-General Orde Charles Wingate, DSO and two bars (February 26, 1903 – March 24, 1944), was a British officer, leader of a joint British/Zionist paramilitary force in Palestine in 1936 and creator of two special military units during World War II.

Palestine and the Special Night Squads

In 1936 Wingate was assigned to the British Mandate of Palestine to a staff office position and became an intelligence officer. From his arrival, he saw the creation of a Jewish State in Palestine as being a religious duty toward the literal fulfillment of Christian prophecy and he immediately put himself into absolute alliance with Jewish political leaders.

Arab guerrillas had at the time of his arrival begun a campaign of attacks against both British mandate officials and Jewish communities, which became known as the Arab Revolt.

Wingate became politically involved with a number of Zionist leaders. He formulated an idea of armed groups of British-led Jewish commandos, and took his idea personally to Archibald Wavell, who was then a commander of British forces in Palestine. After Wavell gave his permission, Wingate convinced the Zionist Jewish Agency and the leadership of Haganah, the Jewish armed group.

In June 1938 the new British commander, General Haining, gave his permission to create the Special Night Squads, armed groups formed of British and Haganah volunteers. This is the first instance of the British recognising Haganah's legitimacy as a Jewish military force.[1] The Jewish Agency helped pay salaries and other costs of the Haganah personnel.

Wingate trained, commanded and accompanied them in their patrols. They ambushed Arab saboteurs who attacked oil pipelines of the Iraq Petroleum Company and raided border villages the attackers had used as bases, imposing severe collective punishment that were sometimes frowned on by British staff. Wingate introduced the demolition of houses of Palestinians who were caught in the resistance. Wingate coordinated the counterinsurgency campaign with Charles Tegart who oversaw the construction of the infrastructure to consolidate the British occupation. Tegart ordered the building of militarized police stations, known as Tegart Forts, for example, the one at Latrun. The forts were connected with roads carved through the country-side and villages and blocked with miles of barbed wire. Both sides of the barbed wire fences were patrolled by paramilitary units with Doberman dogs brought in from South Africa. For his conduct of the counterinsurgency campaign he was awarded the DSO in 1938.

However, his deepening direct political involvement with the Zionist cause and an incident where he spoke publicly in favour of formation of a Jewish state during his leave in Britain, caused his superiors in Palestine to remove him from command. He was so deeply associated with political causes in Palestine that his superiors considered him compromised as an intelligence officer in the country. He was promoting his own agenda rather than that of the army or the government.

In May 1939, he was transferred back to Britain. Wingate became a hero of the Yishuv (the Jewish Community), and was loved by leaders such as Zvi Brenner and Moshe Dayan who had trained under him, and who claimed that Wingate had "taught us everything we know."


On 24 March 1944 Wingate flew to assess the situations in three Chindit-held bases in Burma. On his return, flying from Imphal to Lalaghat, the US B-25 Mitchell plane in which he was flying crashed into jungle-covered hills near Bishenpur,[2] where he died alongside nine others.


Wingate was known for various eccentricities. For instance, he often wore an alarm clock around his wrist, which would go off at times, and a raw onion on a string around his neck, which he would occasionally bite into as a snack. He often went about without clothing. In Palestine, recruits were used to having him come out of the shower to give them orders, wearing nothing but a shower cap, and continuing to scrub himself with a shower brush. Lord Moran, Winston Churchill's personal physician wrote in his diaries that "[Wingate] seemed to me hardly sane --- in medical jargon a borderline case."[3]


Orde Wingate was originally buried at the site of the air crash in the Naga Hills in 1944. In April 1947, his remains, and those of other victims of the crash, were moved to the British Military Cemetery in Imphal, India. In November 1950, all the remains were reinterred at Arlington National Cemetery, Virginia in keeping with the custom of repatriating remains in mass graves to the country of origin of the majority of the soldiers.

A memorial to Orde Wingate and the Chindits stands on the north side of the Victoria Embankment, near Ministry of Defence headquarters in London. The facade commemorates the Chindits and the four men awarded the Victoria Cross. The battalions that took part are listed on the sides, with non-infantry units mentioned by their parent formations. The rear of the monument is dedicated to Orde Wingate, and also mentions his contributions to the state of Israel.[4]

To commemorate Wingate's great assistance to the Zionist cause, Israel's National Centre for Physical Education and Sport, the Wingate Institute (Machon Wingate) was named after him. A square in the Rehavia neighborhood of Jerusalem, Wingate Square (Kikar Wingate), also bears his name, as does the Yemin Orde youth village near Haifa.[5] A Jewish football club formed in London in 1946, Wingate F.C. was also named in his honour. A memorial stone in his honour stands in Charlton Cemetery, London SE7, where other members of the Orde Browne family are buried.


External links


  1. Bickerton, Ian J. & Klausner, Carla L. A history of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Upper Saddle River New Jersey, Prentice Hall. 2007.
  2. Rooney (2000), p. 124
  3. Wilson, Charles McMoran. Churchill: Taken from the Diaries of Lord Moran Boston, Houghton Mifflin. 1966
  4. Chindit Memorial, London
  5. Wingate’s Wisdom Mackubin Thomas Owens National Review Online| date=2004-05-07