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Kohima War Cemetery

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.

Click here to read the full media release.