The Wingate Institute is Israel’s National Centre for Physical Education and Sport and is named in honour of Major-General Orde Charles Wingate, serving as a perpetual memorial to “The Friend” and imbued with the spirit of this non-Jewish British Army Officer, who believed in the destiny of the Jewish people and devoted his energies to training the Yishuv to defend itself.
Born in 1903 to a Colonel in the Indian Army, Wingate was brought up in a strictly pious Plymouth Brethren household where daily reading of the Bible was obligatory, and from which he conceived his first love of ooothe Hebrew Prophets and the people of the Holy Book.
The Hebrew Prophets and the People of the Book.
Gazetted in 1923, his first tour of duty was in the Sudan. En route to Palestine in 1936 he realised the justice of the Zionist cause, and made contact with the leaders of the Yishuv and the Haganah. His highly successful deployment of the Special Night Squads saved the oil line from Iraq to Haifa for the British Army and won him the DSO and promotion to Major.
It was during this period of his service that he saw the need for high standards of physical fitness and powers of endurance in young and old alike who would be called upon to serve the State. He developed his famous long-range night patrols in Palestine that were to be the basis of his deep penetration groups that prevented the Japanese invasion of India from Burma.
On the outbreak of the Second World War, he was sent to Ethiopia, where he succeeded in restoring the Emperor Haile Selasse on his throne in Addis Ababa. On his return to England he was brought to the attention of Winston Churchill, the British Prime Minister, by Chaim Weizmann and invited to accompany him on his visit to Roosevelt. It was there that he expounded his ideas for the formation of the famous Long Range Penetration Groups – the (famous) Chindits – to harrass the Japanese behind their lines and protect India from invasion. Promoted to the rank of Major-General, he was sent to command the British Army operation in Burma.
His highly adventurous and successful command of the Chindits was brought to a sudden and tragic end when, returning from a visit to his forward patrols behind enemy lines, the plane in which he was travelling struck a mountain during a monsoon storm, and all nine passengers and crew were killed. Burned beyond recognition, their remains after the war were re-interred in a common grave in Arlington Cemetery in the U.S.A. where a simple stone records only their names, ranks and the terse message: “Died in Airplane Crash, W.W.II., March 24, 1944”.