Sunday, 16 August 2015

The Kohima Epitaph

Photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission
The words are achingly familiar but, like many thousands of other, I am sure, I was completely unaware that those lines are known as the Kohima Epitaph are engraved on a plaque on the memorial to the 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima Military Cemetery.

Yesterday, 15th August, was the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.  The war in Europe had ended some three months earlier with the surrender of Germany, but in the Far East the Japanese fought on until atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.  After all the excitement of VE Day in May 1945, the fact that British, Commonwealth and American servicemen were still fighting in the far East was overlooked by many, leading to the British Fourteenth Army, fighting the Burma campaign, considering themselves "the Forgotten Army".

I am (almost) ashamed to say that I know next to nothing about the war in the Far East.  I have long been aware that Malaya, Singapore and Burma - then all part of the British Empire - were overrun by the Japanese, but that is in large part thanks to the film The Bridge Over the River Kwai.  Until yesterday I had never heard of Kohima.

Anne MacIntyre is the daughter of one of the men who fought in the Forgotten Army, which she describes as "the last great multi-racial army to fight under the British flag. One great quality shines out from this campaign and that is the enormous extent of the comradeship and sense of ‘belonging’ that united the British, Indian, Ghurkha, Burmese and African."  She goes on to describe in great detail the Battle of Kohima, turning point of the war in the Far East, which you can read here.

I find it staggering that this battle, often called the Battle of Imphal and Kohima, is considered to be one of my country's greatest battles - yet until yesterday I had never heard of it.

1 comment:

(not necessarily your) Uncle Skip, said...

A first for me, as well.
I should learn more about that part of the war.
It's where my father was killed.
Thank you.