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  • Date: 7 March - 18 July 1944
  • Location: Manipur and Nagaland States (in modern-day India)
  • Campaign: Second World War (1939-45)
  • Combatants: Britain and British India against Japan and the Indian National Army (INA)
  • Protagonists: Lieutenant-General William Slim, Lieutenant-General Geoffrey Scoones, Lieutenant-General Montagu Stopford and Colonel Hugh Richards; Lieutenant-General Renya Mutaguchi and Lieutenant-General Kotoku Sato
  • Outcome: British and British Indian victory

91 comments

carol bridges nee culmer
28 June 2016, 8.17pm

My father Edward Thomas

My father Edward Thomas Culmer was in Kohima and took part in the battle of the tennis courts. He was awarded the military medal but we don't know what for as he was at dunkerque first. Would be grateful for any information regarding my dad.

Merrill Bate
11 May 2016, 2.12pm

My father Captain Peter

My father Captain Peter Doresa served with the Queen's Own Royal West Kent Regiment in Burma, this is his story ......

At first light on April 5 1944, 4th Battalion the Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment (4 QRWK) was on the move to Kohima, north-east India, to reinforce the garrison which was under increasing pressure from a build-up of Japanese forces. As they approached the town, passing a deserted hospital and a chaos of abandoned stores, their trucks were fired on and they made the rest of the way on foot.
The Japanese closed in on April 6 and, for almost two weeks, the battalion endured relentless bombardment by mortars and anti-tank guns by day; to this was added fire from snipers who strapped themselves into the tops of trees. By night, artillery concentrations were the precursor of charges of massed infantry screaming and blowing bugles.

Sometimes, the enemy’s tactics were more subtle. The crack of a sniper’s rifle at night was often designed to provoke a response and reveal the location of the defenders’ trenches. Then the Japanese would mimic British voices with cries of “For God’s sake let me through – the Japs are after me!”

Time and again, the enemy were found to be dug in and too firmly established to be dislodged by anything less than a full-scale attack, and the casualties that this might incur were unaffordable.
My father, a platoon commander in “D” Company, was ordered to clear the enemy from some huts which were surrounded by an ammunition dump. He went forward and bombed the position, setting the dump ablaze. Shells, mortar bombs, grenades and small arms ammunition exploded, sending shrapnel flying in all directions. The Japanese were driven into the open where they were shot by the remainder of the company. My father shot more than 12 and escaped with a minor wound.

Later in the battle, the Japanese infiltrated 4 QRWK’s positions. Wearing gym-shoes and with their weapons wrapped in cloth to prevent any noise, they slipped through under cover of darkness. My father waited until they were within a few yards of his trench before giving the order to fire. The whole platoon opened up with tracer and parachute flares and forced the Japanese to withdraw. Two of the battalion’s companies inflicted about five times their total strength in casualties on the enemy.

After the battle, witnesses described the survivors as “sleepwalkers, haggard, hollow-eyed, bearded, their uniforms ragged and filthy, their faces caked with dried blood, some seemingly half-crazed with fatigue”.

My father was awarded an Immediate MC. Lance-Corporal John Harman, who served in the same company, was posthumously awarded a Victoria Cross for charging a Japanese trench that held five soldiers armed with automatic weapons.

SR SMITH
25 April 2016, 12.22pm

I am an Indian. In modern

I am an Indian. In modern India, at least among the general public, very little seems to be understood or discussed about the war with Japan. I first read of the battles of Northeast India through Paul Scott's novels of "The Raj Quartet," which I read last year, and today came to hear of the book "Kohima" by Arthur Swinson who took part in that battle. That led me to the Wikipedia page on the battle, and thence to the National Army Museum website. By all accounts the ultimate British victory in these crucial battles prevented Japan from possibly conquering India, which in turn could have (very differently) influenced the outcome of the war as a whole.

Though I was born only in 1979, I have always been fascinated and saddened by the events of the first and second world wars, and I therefore feel great respect for the soldiers on both sides who suffered terribly at these battles of Burma and the Northeast. Whatever be the politics of Empire, more Indians should care about their sacrifice. Indeed it was 'for our future', as mentioned in the war memorial epitaph.

Richard Cullen
6 April 2016, 10.22am

My mother was a nursing

My mother was a nursing sister with Queen Alexandra's Imperial Military Nursing Service (QAIMNS), and served in Burma. I'm pretty sure that she was somehow involved in supporting the defence of Kohima and/or Imphal. She never spoke of it, but I remember my father telling me that there was period when she was uncomfortably close to the Japanese.
Apart from references to a military hospital at Manipur, I have found little convincing detail of the role of QAIMNS personnel in this period, and would welcome any concrete information about this.

frank james harrison
24 December 2015, 2.07pm

My great uncle Ernest

My great uncle Ernest Harrison of the Durham Light Infantry was killed in the battle for the tennis courts. I know very little about him about him as my father and grandfather never spoke of him. I only know his body was never recovered. If anyone can help me with any further information i would be grateful.

Keith
24 November 2015, 9.48pm

My Father, Sargent Kenneth

My Father, Sargent Kenneth Johnson, was Canadian but in British 14th Army 2nd Infantry Yorkshire was badly wounded at Imphal and was in and out of hospitals his whole life up to his passing in 1998. I remember Malaria and PTSD attacks. He never talked about it but always had so much respect for The Gurkas who fought beside him. Miss him every day.

Anji kerr
13 November 2015, 10.17am

In relation to [Graeme

In relation to [Graeme Parsons's message of 14/08/2015], My father was at Kohima. He was silent for many years. Could not bear to talk about it. Looking back he clearly had what we now know as PTSD. He suffered oh how he suffered. He wrote down some stuff you may be interested in. I am preparing a little book on Photo box for my family.

Anji

My father died a year ago now. Still missed.

Phil Holmes
16 October 2015, 7.35pm

My father Ewart Holmes was

My father Ewart Holmes was killed on 16 May 1944 fighting the Japanese for the Kings Own Scottish Borderers to the east of Kanglatonbi north of Imphal. A report said they crossed the river on ropes in darkness, climbed a cliff and rested until dawn when they attacked the Japanese bunkers. Do any local guides know the name of this hill or battle site? His body was buried, but know record remains of where it is. If I find out, I would be interested in visiting.

Stephen J Pennells
16 August 2015, 11.17pm

further to my note on #60- My

further to my note on #60- My "foreman" was Jack Welstead- a local man who in retirement after leading the night shift at Riverhead Marley Tiles went on to work at St. Hilary's school and caretaker and handyman with my father- also ex- Queen's Own, though father was younger and didn't see action until the last few months of the invasion of Germany. Jack was a modest man who didn't talk about Kohima, but new Tom by his Christian name.

ellis david allen
16 August 2015, 3.44pm

my father ellis dean allen

my father ellis dean allen was a sergeant instructor with the raf at imphal unarmed combat and was preparing to return to burmah when bomb dropped

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