Calvert, Brigadier Michael Calvert

#1
A friend of mine who actually met Mad Mike all those years ago in India early to mid 40's, recently loaned me a book by the Military Historian David Rooney on 'Mad Mike'.

A brave warrior and a controversial one being a supporter of Wingate and the use of large scale formations in 'Unconventional Warfare'.
He certainly made lots of 'enemies' in the British Military Establishment and eventually came a cropper with his court martial and dismissal from the army.

David Rooney has made a study of the court martial and passes comment on 'Evidence' that the Deputy Judge Advocate General had refused to accept as it had not been presented to the civil Police ( German).
Rooney also prints in full, a written statement by 2 of the Germans involved, 3rd had passed on.
Was Calvert Stitched up by the system ?
john
 
#2
We could not possibly comment on the question you ask.

However, the Head of Remembrance Travel, the predecessor to Poppy Travel, interviewed Michael Calvert and made a video of the interview - whihc you can buy from Poppy Travel for £10, only in VHS format .

Chindit Commander. Brigadier Michael Calvert DSO AND BAR was undoubtedly the most successful of General Orde Wingate’s Special Force Commanders in Burma. He gained international fame as a result of his exploits in command of the 77th Chindit Brigade. In this video he discusses his memories of Burma, the characters, the actions, the RAF / USAAF, the ordinary Chindit and of course, Wingate. This video is supported by contemporary newsreel footage and photographs.
Running time approx 51 minutes



We have made some other films about the Burma campaign, capturing the memories of servicemen and women who fought in the longest land campaign of the Second World War. These include Chindit Return and Arakan Return.
 

oldbaldy

LE
Moderator
#3
Poppy_Travel said:
However, the Head of Remembrance Travel, the predecessor to Poppy Travel, interviewed Michael Calvert and made a video of the interview - whihc you can buy from Poppy Travel for £10, only in VHS format .

We have made some other films about the Burma campaign, capturing the memories of servicemen and women who fought in the longest land campaign of the Second World War. These include Chindit Return and Arakan Return.
Fewer people all the time have access to a VHS video recorder. Do you intend transfering these films to DVD?
 
#4
Well Poppy, I am due a UK visit in a couple of weeks and stocking up on DVDs/Books is a must for me.
Publish details and I guarantee you an order.
My friend also fought in First and Second Arakan before going of to Kohima. I do not know if he has a VHS, will ask at our Curry Lunch today, but some years ago I bought a VHS/DVD player.
Unfortunate that the well informed members I find on this section of the board are avoiding a Difficult Subject.
john
Slim is next planned subject.
 
#6
"A Sapper-Mad,married,Methodist-take your pick! "

Hum, Rooney misses out that Calvert was married.
Must ask my Sapper friend at lunch today.
john
 
#7
jonwilly said:
"A Sapper-Mad,married,Methodist-take your pick! "

Hum, Rooney misses out that Calvert was married.
Must ask my Sapper friend at lunch today.
john
It's an old saying about Sapper officers in general not Calvert in particular.
 
#8
Yes so I have just learned over lunch.
I ask my fried if he thought that the Court Martial gave the right result and he said No. Calvert was innocent.
Though a big Corps he thought that no one could have done that many years service without such matters being Known.
"They always stick together and become known to their fellow officers and there was no talk on Calvert until after the CM."

We had a good laugh on the matter of Calvert boozing in what where termed Rough non Officers bars.
John Masters who represented the opposite side of the argument on large scale use of Long Range Penetration troops says in his The Road Beyond Mandalay that Calvert lead every bayonet charge against the jap.
Probably exaggerated but too anyone who had lead a number of bayonet charges, Rough would have a different meaning.
john
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#9
A few years ago I had a need to read up on everything I could on Burma.

The Old War Office Library used to have a book list that they would send you - and I was slowly grinding through it.

Two books you might look out for

' A Hell of a Licking ' by James LUNT

'Tank Tracks to Rangoon ' by Bryan Perrett

The first covers the long fighting retreat through Burma into Manipur.

Very detailed section on the Sittang Bend battle ( where a vital bridge was blown too soon and stranded a sizeable contingent of the British Army on the enemy's side of the river.)

It also covers to some extent the riverine warfare exploits of the Royal Marine Viper Force on the Irrawaddy - even less well recognised.

The second book covers the use of ARMOUR in Burma - which to the uninitiated (like me) always presents as a purely close quarter jungle conflict....which it wasn't.

Good luck,

Goats
 
#10
Thank you Goatman.
I will try for the 'A hell of a licking' my 90 year old friend was the sapper who placed the mines on the Sittang Bridge.
The GOC ordered the demolition as losing 2 Infantry Brigades was considered preferable to the immediate loss of Rangoon.
john
 

Andy_S

LE
Book Reviewer
#11
SNIP
The GOC ordered the demolition as losing 2 Infantry Brigades was considered preferable to the immediate loss of Rangoon.
SNIP

Desperate days. Given the extraordinary sensitivity to casualties we now face, I wonder if the UK would be able to fight a World War again.

RE: "The Difficult Subject"
There is a bio of Paddy Maine ('Rogue Warrior of the SAS' - trite title but not a bad book) which suggests that Maine may have been on the other bus and asserts that Calvert certainly was. A seriously pished Maine apparently punched Calvert's senseless one night, in what might have been a gay tantrum.

In this day and age I can't see why it should be held against him. A good number of dangerous fighting men - Alexander springs to mind - were that way inclined.
 
#12
I have just finished reading, 'Rogue Warrior of the SAS'.
I thought the author knew more then he was prepared to say even in this enlightened age.
Very Difficult subject to tackle.
From what I have read both Clavert and Mayne where not Officers who would have got promoted in a peacetime army.
Makes me wonder about some of the alcoholic nutters I served with over the years.
john
 
#14
Andy_S said:
Desperate days. Given the extraordinary sensitivity to casualties we now face, I wonder if the UK would be able to fight a World War again.
If there was a clear and obvious reason to fight, then I think we could.

Part of our current opponents' success is down to keeping their objectives incomprehensible to most of us.
 
#15
Andy_S said:
SNIP
The GOC ordered the demolition as losing 2 Infantry Brigades was considered preferable to the immediate loss of Rangoon.
SNIP

Desperate days. Given the extraordinary sensitivity to casualties we now face, I wonder if the UK would be able to fight a World War again.

RE: "The Difficult Subject"
There is a bio of Paddy Maine ('Rogue Warrior of the SAS' - trite title but not a bad book) which suggests that Maine may have been on the other bus and asserts that Calvert certainly was. A seriously pished Maine apparently punched Calvert's senseless one night, in what might have been a gay tantrum.
In this day and age I can't see why it should be held against him. A good number of dangerous fighting men - Alexander springs to mind - were that way inclined.
Sorry I don't share that opinion. There's nothing in Maine's service career that even remotely suggests he was gay or was even of that inclination.
Maine had form for battering people, an inordinately lengthy list of folks will testify to that. Close friends weren't spared whether it was in his mother's house or in a bar. He had demons which are not explained by that theory that he was gay.

As for Mike C, highly probably so.
 

Goatman

ADC
Book Reviewer
#16
Thank you Goatman.
I will try for the 'A hell of a licking' my 90 year old friend was the sapper who placed the mines on the Sittang Bridge.
The GOC ordered the demolition as losing 2 Infantry Brigades was considered preferable to the immediate loss of Rangoon.
john

No worries.....
Here y'go
SOURCE

"My unpleasant and devastating news"
Smyth had ordered his sappers to get ready to blow the bridge. In the early morning of 22 February, it became clear that it might fall within the hour. Smyth's choices were to destroy the bridge, stranding more than half of his own troops on the wrong side, or to let it stand and give the Japanese a clear march to Rangoon. He decided the bridge must be destroyed, and at 05:30 on 22 February, this was done.

Smyth reported this "unpleasant and devastating news"[5] to General Hutton, overall commander of the Burmese forces. Slim (1956) says: "It is easy to criticize this decision; it is not easy to make such a decision. Only those who have been faced with the immediate choice of similar grim alternatives can understand the weight of decision that presses on a commander."[4] But Slim does not actually endorse Smyth's choice, and indeed Smyth was dismissed. He never received another command. Brigadier "Punch" Cowan replaced him in command of the division.

The Official History records that Smyth had wanted to move his troops across the Sittang much earlier, and had been refused. It says: "In view of the great importance of getting 17th Division safely across the Sittang, Hutton might have been wiser, once action had been joined on the Bilin, to give Smyth a free hand."[6]

[edit] Withdrawal and aftermath
The Japanese could have wiped out the 17th Division, but they did not. They wanted to take Rangoon fast, and the delays involved in a mopping up operation were unpalatable; so they disengaged and headed north in search of another crossing-point. Thus later on 22 February, survivors of the 17th Division swam and ferried themselves over the Sittang in broad daylight.

After smaller actions at the Battle of Pegu and Taukkyan Roadblock, the Japanese went on to take Rangoon unopposed, on 9 March. Fortunately for the survivors of 17th Division, they had dismantled their roadblocks, so those Indians who had escaped Sittang Bridge were able to slip away to the north.[4]

The 17th Division's infantry manpower after Sittang was 3,484—just over 40% of its establishment, though it was already well under-strength before the battle started.[1] Most of its artillery, vehicles and other heavy equipment was lost. Between them, they had 550 rifles, ten Bren guns and twelve tommy guns remaining. Most had lost their boots swimming the river.[3]

Still, 17th Division could be replenished and re-equipped, and it was. The artillery losses were of World War I-vintage 18-pounders, and the anti-aircraft provision had only been Lewis guns.[7]

17th Division remained in almost constant contact with the enemy from December 1941 to July 1944, when it was taken out of the front line just before the Battle of Imphal.[8]

[edit] References
^ a b Liddell Hart 1970, p. 218.
^ Liddell Hart 1970, p. 216.
^ a b Slim 1956, p. 18.
^ a b c Slim 1956, p. 17.
^ a b c Liddell Hart 1970, p. 217.
^ Quoted in Liddell Hart, p.216
^ Jeffries & Anderson 2005, p.65.
^ Slim 1956, p. 294.
[edit] Sources
Liddell Hart, B.H., History of the Second World War. New York: G.P. Putnam, 1970. ISBN 0-30680-912-5.
Slim, William (1956), Defeat Into Victory. Citations from the Four Square Books 1958 edition which lacks an ISBN, but also available from NY: Buccaneer Books ISBN 1-56849-077-1, Cooper Square Press ISBN 0-8154-1022-0; London: Cassell ISBN 0-304-29114-5, Pan ISBN 0-330-39066-X.
Jeffreys and Anderson, British Army in the Far East 1941-45. Osprey Publishing, 2005. ISBN 1841767905.
Whilst 17 Div escaped, I would be interested to hear what happened to the locally raised 4 Burma Rifles......many of whom were ethnic Shan and Karen who remained loyal to their British commanders............and who today are being shamefully oppressed by the (Burman ) central government.
 
#18
Re the original question; the sum of opinion I remember hearing (a long time ago) was that he was guilty as charged. Means nothing, really, as he was an outstanding officer who made a difference when it mattered. I only met him once, when he gave a bunch of nosepicking, arsescratching blokes a lecture on What It's All About. He was electrifying. I've only seen that sort of razor-sharpness in a couple of other people, and it was apparently later said that he was soaked in alcohol at the time.

If only some of the chiefs and politicos since his time had what he had.
 
#19
Goatman
Thank you for the detailed information.
I have read many books on the subject and 'A Hell of a Good licking' is on order from ABE Books. I could have saved the price for as I found out over a curry lunch yesterday my Sapper has a copy.
My 'Old Sapper' is of the opinion that the Villein of the Sittang Battle was Sir Reginald Gorman Smith the Governor of Burma.
Gorman Smith could not accept that jap would prevail and agreed with Wavell on the 'Poor' qualities of jap troops.
My Sapper mined the bridge, did a proper job and then was ordered up river to destroy as much material that jap could use for a river crossing.
Having done this he returned, about ten days later, when his explosives where finished.
He found that the Governor had had the Military remove the 'Mines' as it was bad for moral in the civil community, my friend then had the 'Privalage' of re-ming the bridge whilst under jap fire. In the manner of Passing Troops much of the original demolition material was removed for what ever reason. The military authorities where inform that in his opinion a Proper job could not be done due to the lack of explosives and Fuse wire/cable.
The actual Pushing of the plunger was done by an Indian Army officer on duty at the time.
My friend does like to 'Say' that in years gone by he was involved in Heavy Correspondence in the R.E. Corps magazine with the GOC and CRE 17 Div when both where still alive. My friend was awarded a 75 pound prize for Best Letter of the year by his Corps magazine. A dangerous man to cross on subject he knows well. Good egg, The Most Highly respected Man in the local expat community.
As I have mentioned He says that there where No 'Stories' doing the rounds on Calvert prior to the Court Martial, who was a Highly regarded Battle experienced officer, who took a drink.
john
 
#20
We have an ex-Chindit relative visiting us. I will ask him in the morning what he thought of Calvert. From previous conversations, I think he has a good opinion of the man, and of Wingate for that matter.

I am sure everyone knows that great photograph at Mogaung where Mr Pun won his VC, of Calvert as Brigade Commander carrying rifle with bayonet fixed, along with Mr Pun's CO and 2IC - Joanna Lumley's father.
 

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