Kohima War Cemetery, Kohima, Nagaland

In 1944, Japanese forces attacked Kohima (the capital of the state of Nagaland) in an attempt to defeat the British Army and further advance into India. Although a shorter and smaller battle than that at nearby Imphal, Allied forces withheld the much larger Japanese Army for a number of weeks, eventually forcing a retreat when the British 2nd Division arrived, as much needed reinforcements. Historians claim that some of the fiercest fighting to take place during World War II occurred at Kohima, with the story of hand-to-hand combat taking place on the Deputy-Commissioner’s tennis court testament to this. At the conclusion of the battle, 4,000 British and Indian soldiers were dead, with a much higher number counted for the Japanese (53,000 between Imphal and Kohima).

Located on Garrison Hill, the site of the Deputy-Commissioner’s house and subsequent fighting, the Kohima War Cemetery was designed by Colin St Claire Oakes as a series of terraces along a hillside. 1,420 Commonwealth graves from World War II have been marked with bronze plaques, each inscribed with the name of the soldier when known. On the top side of the cemetery stands a memorial that commemorates the 917 Sikh and Hindu soldiers who died at the Battle of Kohima and were cremated thereafter. At the bottom side of the cemetery another memorial stands, a large stone brought from the south of Kohima, dedicated to the 2nd Division of the British Army. A bronze plate on the stone reads: ‘When you go home tell them of us and say for your tomorrow we gave our today’. Whilst not still in existence, the tennis court that once stood has also been marked out in white paint as a reminder to the intensity of the fighting that took place on the site.

Maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the Kohima War Cemetery hosts annual ceremonies to commemorate the battle, including two large memorial services in 2005 and 2015 to mark both the 60th and 70th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima.

Related Web-links

  1. http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/2058100/KOHIMA%20WAR%20CEMETERY