KOHIMA, APRIL 17
“FOR your tomorrow you gave your life. We that you gave it for will forever in remembrance, remember your sacrifice,” were the words written on a poppy wreath from the Kohima Museum, York (UK) that was laid on the memorial plaque of the Kohima War Cemetery on Thursday by a team of the British Army. Another message read, “At the going down of the sun, and in the morning.We will remember them.”The ten-member British Army team, led by Brigadier Greville K Bibby CBE, Commander 15 (North East) Brigade & York Garrison and accompanied by few relatives of some war veterans and a group of British historians and writers visited the Kohima War Cemetery today as a tribute in commemoration of the 70th year anniversary of the Battle of Kohima (1944) which was fought during the Second World War.
Brig. Bibby, who had been to Jotsoma on Wednesday to inaugurate a monument built in memory of Maj.Gen. John Grover MC (1897-1979), the then GOC 2nd British Division, said that he has read a lot about Kohima and spoke to many veterans over the years but nothing prepared him for his visit. “We saw how beautiful your country is, but we also saw how incredibly difficult it must have been for our brave soldiers to fight across this terrain,” the brigadier said.
He stated that it is so important to remember and honour the soldiers who fought in the Battle of Kohima, using Earl Mountbatten’s words, “probably one of the greatest battles in history”. He said the battle is considered great because of the bravery of those who fought it in the arduous terrain and conditions and the significance in defeating the mighty Japanese.
Brig. Bibby thanked the people of Kohima and Nagaland for the part they played in the battle, saying, “you too suffered greatly”. He termed it a privilege to have met some of the war veterans from this part of the world during his visit. “Nagaland is a beautiful country with beautiful people. We value our friendship with you,” he added.
A WWII veteran, Sovehu Nienuh of the then 1st Assam Regiment, was also present at the commemorative programme and shared his memories of the great battle. The 98 year old veteran recalled that his regiment had fought the Japanese from Jessami, at Kohima alongside the British Army and then towards Burma as well. When asked about his thoughts on being able to stand at the venue of the battleground seventy years on, the war veteran told this correspondent that it saddens him to reminisce how the gory war was fought, but at the same time he said he is grateful and honoured to be here on the auspicious occasion to pay his respects to his fallen comrades. He also talked about how he was injured during the battle by splinters off a bomb and that he had to retire voluntarily from service eight years after the battle, on medical grounds.
Earlier during the remembrance service which was led by Reverend L. Tsanso, the commanding officer of 2 Signal Regiment (York) Lieut. Col. Ian Hargreaves read out the Pericles while York Garrison Sgt. Maj. WO1 (GSM) Brian Kiernan read out the famous Kohima Epitaph. A full military Guard and Last Post was accorded by the personnel of the 19th Assam Rifles. Curator of the Kohima Museum in York and a trustee of Kohima Educational Trust, Bob Cook also delivered a brief speech alongside Additional Chief Secretary Nagaland, CJ Ponraj, and Kohima Educational Society (KES) chairman, P. Ngully. The vote of thanks was proposed by KES ex-officio member and veteran Naga journalist, Charles Chasie.