Slim, General Sir William, 1891-1970

Slim was the British Commander who built up the morale of his troops after their 900 mile retreat from Burma and led them back to reconquer Burma.

At the beginning of the war Slim was given command of the 5th Indian Division in the Sudan where he led the offensive against the Italians at Gallabat. He was wounded in this engagement but returned to command the 10th Indian Division in Iraq in 1941. On 8 June 1941 he conducted a successful campaign in Syria and then led a force into Iran (25 August) to enforce Allied demands for the removal of German agents operating there. He routed the enemy and continued on to Teheran where he joined Russian troops. In 1942 he was sent to command the Burma I Corps (Burcorps) which comprised virtually all of ALEXANDER’s forces. He arrived in the middle of a desperate situation in which he had to maintain order and morale during a 900 mile fighting retreat from Rangoon to India and to accomplish this before the monsoons began. Once in India he commanded XVIII Corps and his main task again was to build morale.

Late in 1943 Slim was put in charge of the newly formed 14th Army which was organized to mount an offensive in Burma, although this was low on the list of the Allies’ priorities. The campaign opened in December 1943 and the British forces struggled to take and retain Arakan. The Japanese mounted an impressive counterattack to take Kohima and cut off the road to Imphal. Slim’s Army held them off and forced them to withdraw when their supplies ran out. The Japanese did not collapse but withdrew to Mandalay and Meiktila. Slim followed them through the jungle, crossed the Irrawaddy and took Mandalay in late March 1945 and raced to reach Rangoon before the monsoon. He arrived in May to find the Japanese had already evacuated.

Slim’s campaign made extensive use of guerrilla groups: MERRILL’s Marauders and WINGATE’s Chindits. He achieved his successes by using air supply to maintain communications with his rapidly moving troops. He was greatly admired and liked as a Commander and achieved the greatest land victory over the Japanese in World War II. Late in the war, Slim was made Commander in Chief of Allied Land Forces in Southeast Asia, and was made a General in August 1945.

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