CWGC remembers "One of the greatest battles in history"
04 April 2014
Senior officials from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
(CWGC) commemorated the 70th anniversary of one of the
fiercest battles of the Second World War - the Battle of Kohima -
at a ceremony today at the CWGC Kohima War Cemetery in Nagaland,
North East India.
Described by the Supreme Allied Commander, Earl Louis
Mountbatten, as "probably one of the greatest battles in history,"
4 April 1944 marks the day when Japanese advances into India were
stopped in Kohima.
Representing the CWGC were the Vice Chairman, Sir Joe French,
and Director of Africa and Asia Pacific, Barry Murphy, accompanied
by Lt Gen Ravi Eipe (Rtd) Honorary Liaison Officer Former Army
Commander Eastern Command.
To commemorate those who died, Sir Joe French unveiled a new
Visitor Information Panel. This uses the latest smartphone
technology to describe the fierce fighting that took place at
Kohima and reveals the personal stories of some of those who are
buried in the CWGC's cemetery there. These include Lal Bahadur
Thapa, from Nepal, who served in the 4th battalion of the 8th
Gurkha rifles. He was awarded a Military Medal for rescuing a
wounded man from directly in front of the Japanese positions, and
James Henry "Jimmy" Whalen, a young Canadian university
student, who volunteered to defend India and Burma in
1942. Having shot down six enemy aircraft and damaged
another, he officially became an Ace. He was so popular that
his story was told in a comic book strip. Jimmy was killed in
action in August 1944 whilst running support missions for troops
engaged in the battles of Kohima and Imphal.
Sir Joe French said: "I am greatly honoured to visit Kohima War
Cemetery to mark the 70th anniversary of one of the most important
engagements of the Second World War. The work that the CWGC
does to maintain this cemetery, our efforts to encourage people to
visit it, and the panels that we have installed today, will help us
and future generations to understand, and to remember, the great
sacrifices made by the Indian, British and other Allied servicemen
who fought and died here in 1944.
"I would like to thank our staff at the cemetery for their hard
work, and our friends and partners in the local and national
government and armed forces, who do so much to support the
Commission's work in India."
The CWGC's cemetery at Kohima is located on what were the
grounds of the Deputy Commissioner's bungalow - the scene of some
of the fiercest fighting of the battle. Little remains of the
battlefield today, save the white concrete lines of what was once
the Commissioner's tennis court - on which the Cross of Sacrifice
was erected after the war.
The cemetery is the final resting place of more than 1,420
Commonwealth servicemen of the Second World War, most of whom fell
during the siege of Kohima and the fighting which followed its
relief. The majority of those laid to rest here were members of
British regiments, but alongside them are more than 330 members of
Indian units, and eight flyers who served with the air forces of
Canada and Australia. At the highest point of the cemetery stands
the Kohima Cremation Memorial which commemorates more than 900
Hindu and Sikh soldiers who were committed to fire in accordance
with their faith.
The panels at Kohima are among 500 to be installed at CWGC
locations worldwide and are some of the first to be placed at
Second World War cemeteries. Each of the panels feature
information about the site of the cemetery and a QR (Quick
Response) code. When scanned with a smartphone, the QR Code
provides access for further information including the personal
stories of some of the casualties buried or commemorated there.
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read the full media release.