Mike Calvert – A Chindit

Logline: The conventional soldiers dislike of the unconventional. Chindits never die, they go to heaven and regroup.  They’ve already been to hell!

Short Synopsis: The degree to which Brigadier Mike Calvert led very risky attacks he became known as “Mad Mike”, because of his habit of laughing loudly in moments of greatest danger. This fearless, physically tough, heavy drinking, hard fighting idealist-the acknowledged expert on guerrilla warfare was recommended for the V.C. Astonishingly it was quashed at a senior level. He was hated by his superior officers and festering in their minds was another battle he never saw coming and was ill-prepared for.

Montgomery said of him, ‘He’s the only officer who gave me a straight answer.”  In 1952 he is set-up, court-martialled on trumped-up charges? Dismissed from the Army without pension or any other benefits. Friends turn away from him. He falls from favour into obscurity. Despite all this Brigadier, Calvert wrote ‘Prisoners of Hope’ considered a War classic and lectured at Manchester University on guerrilla warfare. Ending his days as an alcoholic dependant on Social Security. Who hated him so much and had the power to do this? Earl Mountbatten.

 

One of my favourite subjects. Mad Mike. A Chindit. 1,714 absorbing words.

This soldier was set-up on trumped-up charges, Court martialled, dismissed and crucified by the stinking Brit establishment. Three Commanders recommended him for the VC. It was denied by an envious General Kirby. So who was the Bastard who framed him? Read on its hell-of-a-read about this legendary SAS commanding officer.

About 18 years ago I submitted a pile of synopses totalling 27,500 words to various English prodcos (production companies.) Producer: Pearl Catlin- who knew Mike asked if I’d write a screenplay on spec., about this British soldier? I leapt at the chance, without any idea how to. That screenplay’s about: Brigadier James Michael Calvert DSO – with bar. 1913 – 1984.

Pearl sent 4 thick books and a tape with Mike being interviewed. I wrote a 90-page screenplay in 39 days. Pearl said it was an expensive epic, asking I reduce cost and scale. Now- at least 14 drafts later, she and I wonder if anyone’s interested after all these years.  I don’t know the answer.

Logline.

These town-bred men’s lives would never be the same. They were Chindit’s’ fighting in Burma. Chindit’s’ never die they go to heaven and regroup, they’ve already been to hell! Their commander was Brigadier Mike Calvert DSO with bar.

 

Synopsis.

The only time 31-year-old career soldier Brigadier Mike Calvert missed a fight was when he was too drunk to stand, which as it happens was not that often. To the British Army Calvert was 187 pounds of trouble.

The Japanese Fifteenth Commanding Officer General Mutaguchi wished he’d never heard his name. Unfortunately for him Mike never had a whisky handy during the 1944 Burma monsoon season. The other fight seven years later, Mike never saw it coming. It’s one he’d never forget.

 

Mike with 2000 Chindit’s were behind enemy lines, gnawing away at the Japanese guts. After four months of relentless fighting, Dysentery, Malaria, Trench foot and Jungle sores 500 skinny Chindit’s were still alive, another 200 were injured, most unfit to fight.

Then an idiot US Army General “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell who promised ‘his’ Commanding officer “I’ll kick the Japanese asses out of Burma,” then ordered Mike to take Mogaung – the last Jap stronghold. Stilwell – safe behind a desk a hundred miles north, didn’t believe Mike who told him, “Defending Mogaung are 10,000 of the best Jap Jungle Fighters. They’re well dug in and will fight to the death. How do you think we will fair? 

Wounded Chindit’s crawled from beds to follow the man they nicknamed “Mad Mike.” With the tireless help of USAF Colonel Cochrane, his pilots flying the formidable Mustang, Mike crushed Mutaguchi’s army. When Mike heard that The Yanks kicked the Japs out of Burma, he signalled Stilwell “I am now taking Umbridge.” “Stilwell replied “Where is it? We cannot find it on the maps.”

A year earlier on Churchill’s orders, General Wingate devised LRP – Long Range Penetration; troops behind enemy lines supplied with the goods dropped by air by USAAF. Wingate chose this hard fighting rebel officer who shared the same fears; fight the conventional way and we’ll lose. Tragically Wingate died in a plane crash before he knew how successful LRP would be. Mike was recommended for the VC, by three Brigade Commanders it was denied by General Kirby.  This stubborn, conventional soldier – convinced these two rebels would lose. Then his outdated fighting methods would defeat Mutaguchi. By now Kirby was an envious man and hated Calvert who challenged him many times to leave his desk hundreds of miles away in India and start killing the Japanese.

General Mutaguchi later admitted he’d found his match in General Wingate and Brigadier Calvert.

Back in England, Mike was appointed CO of the SAS in Europe. Years earlier he’d written a paper Guerrilla warfare; highly trained specialist soldiers “who get in fast, hit hard, the get out.” Kirby wrote an ‘unofficial history’ of the war in Burma. In it he tore Calvert and Wingate to shreds. In 1952 Mike was court-martialled on trumped-up charges.

Despite overwhelming defence evidence contradicting Calvert’s alleged Homosexual lurches, the JAG Judge Advocate General with a panel of judges found him guilty of “trying to procure acts of gross indecency” against 4 known German criminal youths, who earlier broke into his flat and stole his gun and other effects. SIB Special Investigation Branch told the youths, these with other break-in charges will be dropped by signing a statement that Calvert had tried to assault them. Unable to read English they signed avoiding jail sentences. On Sunday, July 13, 1952, the accused 58046 Brigadier James Michael Calvert was dismissed from Her Majesty’s Service.

Calvert’s life-long friend Col. Fleming got an appeal at which he and Mike’s lawyer produced written statements from these youths, that they were tricked, not understanding what they’d signed.   Again the JAG dismissed this appeal on procedural grounds. It should have been handed to the police, who would have handed it to the JAG. Procedure 64 was breached.

Years later Mike’s biographer Author David Rooney met two of the boys-now men. They were flabbergasted what had happened to Mike. Calvert NEVER assaulted them or tried to. A SIB Special Investigation Branch Sergeant met Mike years after he’d retired and told him. Quote: “He’d been told to dig up as much dirt about as he could.” This sergeant after some time refused to carry on as was assigned to a desk job.

The verdict, together with irrefutable appeal evidence was catastrophic for this highly decorated Cambridge degree 39-year-old soldier. Of whom Field Marshall Montgomery said, “He’s the only officer who gave me a straight answer.”

Friends turned away from him, he became an alcoholic, a dropout, dependant on social security. Frequently involved in fights and stays in alcoholic centres. Following ten years in Australia, he returned to England where the SAS found this hero on the streets.

Back on his feet, Mike never settled in work where his Engineering degree secured his a monthly pay packet. He tried but the court-martial nagged away at his innards, as he’d inflicted on Mutaguchi. He started drinking again, wrote two highly acclaimed books on guerrilla warfare past; it’s future and lectured on his favourite subject, fighting. Because of the injuries and diseases contacted in Burma meant he relied on a wheel-chair later in life to get around East London where he lived in a small flat. An admirer took him to Army reunions where he was deeply moved by the unrelenting admiration and affection from his my old comrades.

In July 1997 Mike auctioned his 14 medals for 18,000 pounds. Some say the finest of any British soldier, who justly deserved Britain’s highest award for gallantry, the Victoria Cross. But life has not been just to Mike. In 18 months he’d drunk it all away, and despite this personal abuse and the diseases from Burma. Brigadier James Michael Calvert DSO with bar died on November 28, 1998, aged 85.

So who hated Mike and had the power to frame him has nagged me for over 14 years?

Then quite by accident after reading a book on assassinations where a name was mentioned it clicked. That’s the bastard who framed Mike. He would need great influence and a reason for doing so. I wrote to the Chindit association without mentioning this name, merely saying I believe I know the man. They wrote back with the same name. This alone, because of his sudden death and who he was, means I have another story linked to this.  He looks a decent sort of fellow a very high ranking one too. But looks are skin-deep. Years earlier the lady who ran the Burma Star site mentioned this’ man’s sticky fingers’. At that time it didn’t sink in. Sadly I never heard from her again.

Some of the above is not mine, for the life of me I cannot recall who wrote it. If the writer sees this please contact Ron so I can acknowledge credit.

Successive appeals to the British governments clear General Charles Orde-Wingate and Brigadier James Michael Calvert’s name have failed.

Finally, just read what the prosecuting and defence lawyers opening statements from the court-martial transcript. Particularly Lt. Col. Campbell.

 

Prosecuting Lawyer: Lt. Col. CAMPBELL. Gentlemen, before I outline to you the persecution’s case, may I be permitted to say something of a rather personal nature? That Major Calvert comes before you with this tremendous record of service to his country should find himself today in this predicament, whether he is guilty or whether he is innocent, must be a source of distress to all who know him and all who know of him.  May I say that I, as the prosecutor, share that sense of distress in the fullest measure and that the burden of prosecuting this case before you, as it is, unfortunately, my duty to do, weighs heavily indeed upon my shoulders. Thank you.

The defence lawyer, Mr.GRIFFITH-JONES. That man sitting here is not perfect.  He is fourteen stone five pounds of trouble.  And he has other problems.  Brigadier Calvert is a fighter, a brawler, and an alcoholic to boot.  With that on your side, it is little wonder he’s sitting right here.  But he’s not here as a result of any of these traits.  No gentlemen, he’s here because some petty high ranking Army officers are jealous of this soldier.  They hadn’t either the guts or courage that this man has in abundance.  They don’t like the way he fights; and, thank God they don’t.  If they did we’d probably be talking German or Japanese, that’s if any of us were still alive because Britain would have lost the war.  But we didn’t lose, because of fighters like Brigadier James Michael Calvert, DSO with bar.  He curses speaks his mind, and this offends some senior officers.  Clever, certainly, Bolshie, even pugnacious, this man never fitted in.  His type of fighting was novel and suspect by many Army officers in the forties.  Such men had been taught along traditional lines, face-to-face battle, relying on tight discipline and orderliness.