Landmark anniversary for surviving Burma Chindit

News Shopper: Mr and Mrs Cochrane Mr and Mrs Cochrane

"TO get to this anniversary - 70 years, " said Bill Cochrane. "Talk about luck."

The Abbey Wood couple first met when factory worker Alma was relocated from London to Bill's hometown of Menstrie in Scotland, during the Second World War.

They married one year later in 1942 but it wasn't long before Bill went into the Royal Scots, eventually joining the 2nd Battalion Black Watch.

Once signed up, he formed part of the Chindits, a group of soldiers who took part in Operation Thursday, which saw forces flown into the heart of Burma behind Japanese enemy lines.

It is a story that has since been turned into a book, Chindit, written by his son Stewart, and the soldiers who took part are now known almost as much for the harshness of the conditions they endured as their achievements on the battlefield.

Mr Cochrane, known to fellow soldiers as 'Cocky', recalled: "We went in columns, going to places and creating ambushes based on information we were given. It was very elementary really."

On one occasion, his battalion ventured very close to a group of Japanese military who were riding through the night, led by a Japanese officer riding a magnificent white horse.

Mr Cochrane said: "They took him out straight away. In a matter of minutes it was pandemonium. Everybody was in a panic."

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Bill himself had malaria nine times and by the time he finally returned home after five months he was down to just six stone from eight-and-a-half.

Along with many others he had been through quite an ordeal, sleeping in wet clothes, lacking medical treatment and essentially cut-off from the outside world.

He said: "By the time I left, quite a lot of people had fallen by the wayside.

"Many of the men that were wounded there had to die because there was no way we could get them out for treatment."

Following the war, he and Alma lived in Charlton before moving to Abbey Wood, where he led a successful career as a bricklayer, helping to rebuild much that the bombs had destroyed.

He said: "Thousands of other men have stories to tell. And I always thought Londoners should get a special medal for what they went through."

"The most wonderful experience of our lives."

The Cochranes celebrated their anniversary with a surprise trip on the Orient Express.

Sister trains to the famous locomotive regularly travel to places like Bath and have their fair share of celebrations.

But Mrs Cochrane, 91, said: "So many people were coming to congratulate us because they never have a 70th anniversary.

"It was the most wonderful experience of our lives. We were treated like royalty."

Mr Cochrane, 88, said: "Every flipping minute there was a surprise waiting for us."

The pair, who now have two children, four grandchildren and four great grandchildren, put their success down to a lack of petty arguments.

Mrs Cochrane said: "We must have done something good. If we have any little arguments or whatever we always just get on with it."

For more on Mr Cochrane's story, visit chindit.net

Comments (2)

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11:25am Tue 10 Apr 12

pie_nash says...

Happy Birthday Bill..... I've read The Chindits and you were all the bravest.
Happy Birthday Bill..... I've read The Chindits and you were all the bravest. pie_nash
  • Score: 0

6:47pm Thu 12 Apr 12

Isadore says...

Congratulations Bill and Alma!
Wishing you many many more years of Health and Happiness.

Esme,Richard & Carolyn
Congratulations Bill and Alma! Wishing you many many more years of Health and Happiness. Esme,Richard & Carolyn Isadore
  • Score: 0

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