In the spring of 1944 the last great attack by the Axis powers in the Second World War was launched, when 100,000 Japanese came west over the Chindwin river to lay siege to the British stronghold of Imphal. Their aim was to destroy General Slim’s XIVth Army, which had been forced back through Burma to the Assam border, cut the Allied supply route to China and force that country out of the war, and sweep down into India.
It was a daring, desperate stroke which could have changed the course of the Far Eastern war, but it failed, for several reasons. One was that Slim, taken unawares by the enemy’s strength and speed, was nevertheless able to fight on ground of his own choosing. Another was that a