Memorial to Second World War ‘Forgotten Army’ given listed status to mark VJ Day

A Second World War memorial to a force known as the “Forgotten Army” has been given special protection to mark the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day, which effectively marked the end of the conflict.

The Chindit Memorial in Victoria Embankment Gardens in central London has been listed at Grade II by the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) on the advice of Historic England.

The Chindit Special Forces fought in Burma (now known as Myanmar) in 1943 and 1944 and, after years of Allied setbacks, helped to turn the tide of the war against Japan in the Far East.

Named after Chinthe, a mythical beast which stands guard outside Burmese temples, the Chindits comprised troops from the UK, Burma, Hong Kong, India, Nepal, West Africa and the USA.

They engaged the Japanese behind enemy lines in Burma and were trained to navigate through extremely difficult jungle terrain.

The Chindit Memorial takes the form of an ornate bronze statue of a Chinthe supported on a tall Portland stone plinth.

Major General Orde Charles Wingate, a British Army officer who was born in India to a military family, formed the Chindits.

He was killed on active service in Burma in 1944 and the Chindits were disbanded the following year.

World War Two – British Empire – British Army – The Chindits – Far Eastern Front – Burma – 1944
World War Two – British Empire – British Army – The Chindits – Far Eastern Front – Burma – 1944

On the front plinth of the memorial is the blue enamel crest of the Chindits Association, as well as a portrait of Maj Gen Wingate and inscriptions explaining the role of the Chindits in the Second World War.

The memorial was unveiled by the Duke of Edinburgh in 1990 and there is a separate further memorial to the Chindits in the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

While fighting in Europe stopped on VE Day, May 8 1945, bitter fighting continued in the Far East until VJ Day, August 15 1945, when Imperial Japan surrendered, days after the USA dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

To mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, a military delegation will lay a wreath at the Chindit Memorial.

It is part of a series of commemorations happening across Whitehall, honouring the men who served in the Far East during the Second World War.

Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleston said: “As we come together this weekend to mark 75 years since VJ Day, we must not forget the sacrifices of the Second World War generation.

“It is a fitting tribute to all who served in the Far East that we are protecting and preserving sites so that future generations can learn about this important period of our history.”

Claudia Kenyatta, director of regions at Historic England, said: “We are surrounded by surviving physical evidence of the Second World War, from former air raid shelters to statues and plaques; however memorials that commemorate the Allied forces fighting in the Far East are surprisingly rare in England.

“We are pleased that the memorial to the Chindit Special Forces in Burma has been listed. Seventy-five years on, it’s important that we remember them.”

Two Grade I listed churches in Cambridgeshire have also been re-listed with new information linking them to the Second World War and the Allied victory in Japan.

The church of St Thomas A Becket in Ramsey now includes mention of a Lady Chapel in the south aisle giving thanks for the safe return of Lord de Ramsey, a Second World War prisoner of war in Japan, as well as a dedication and commemorative tablet added in 1956.

The church of St Peter and Paul in Wisbech has been re-listed to make special mention of a memorial to the men from the area who were killed in action or in captivity in the Far East.