Maximo Cheng Chi-ping, last of Hong Kong's Chindit warriors, dies at 92

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 02 February, 2014, 4:14am
UPDATED : Sunday, 02 February, 2014, 4:14am

Maximo Cheng Chi-ping

Hong Kong's last Chindit guerilla, Maximo Cheng Chi-ping, has died at the age of 92.

Cheng and his British Army comrades fought deep behind Japanese enemy lines in Burma, now Myanmar, during the second world war. Their casualty rate was high and their tactics controversial.

The Chindits, officially known as the 77th Indian Infantry Brigade, were set up by Brigadier Orde Wingate.

"The Chindits are very highly regarded; they did something out of the ordinary. Orde Wingate had ideas that no one thought possible at the time," said Ron Taylor, chairman of the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association. "They were a thorough annoyance to the Japanese and were regarded a bit like commandos."

Cheng was born in Panama, where his family had a business, and came to Hong Kong as a youngster. When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong on December 8, 1941, Cheng was part of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps. He was captured and released 10 months later because he was Chinese, and would have had to sign a document to say he wouldn't take up arms against the Japanese.

With others, he set off on foot to join the British Army Aid Group, a paramilitary organisation in Guilin set up by a former University of Hong Kong professor to help escaped prisoners of war. Cheng ended up in India, where he joined the Chindits.

Brigadier Christopher Hammerbeck, president of the Royal British Legion (Hong Kong and China Branch), said Cheng and others were taken by glider behind Japanese lines on the second Chindit expedition led by Brigadier Michael Calvert. Thousands of men and animals were flown in on the highly risky mission in March 1944.

Many men came down with dysentery and would march naked if they had the illness.

Cheng told the Post in 2010: "I was in Calcutta training for Chinese intelligence when I heard that the war had ended. I was so happy to be back in Hong Kong. For years I had not known if my family was alive."

After the war, Cheng served for a short time as a lieutenant. He also worked as an army contractor and for the Labour Department. He would later become a safety officer on engineering projects.

He served as chairman of the World War II Veterans Association and legion deputy president.

His funeral will be held at the Universal Funeral Parlour Company in Hung Hom on February 9 and 10.

Cheng leaves a wife, Loretta.