Seven veterans of the Battle of Kohima and the Burma Campaign, widely regarded as the turning point of the land war in South East Asia (1941-1945), laid wreaths at a service in Dean’s Park, York Minster, commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battles of Kohima and Imphal on the 4th July.
Organised by the Kohima Educational Trust, the service was attended by HRH The Duke of York KG, Patron, The Kohima Educational Trust, special guests, family members and descendants of veterans of the battle. The Dean of York, the Rt Revd Dr Jonathan Frost presided and the Archbishop of York, Dr John Sentamu, gave an address.
The seven veterans represented a generation of courageous men who were willing to make the ultimate sacrifice in the face of terrible aggression. The Kohima Educational Trust was set up in 2003 by these and other veterans to honour the Naga - the local people who as guides, scouts, porters and combatants - fought and died alongside them. The Trust raises funds to provide educational opportunities for Naga children, repaying the debt of honour from the past by helping to advance the future of the Naga people. The Duke of York has been Patron of the Trust since 2012.
Against overwhelming odds, 2,500 allied troops in Kohima withstood 15,000 Japanese troops for two weeks until they were relieved by the British 2nd Division. Their courage and bravery came at great cost. At Kohima and Imphal more than 12,500 British and Indian Troops lost their lives with another 4,000 injured. The defeat was a catastrophe for the Japanese forces with around 53,000 deaths, more than 7,000 injured and the destruction of Japan’s regional ambitions to control Burma and invade India. Historians regard the Battles of Kohima and Imphal as the beginning of the end of the war in Asia.
Archbishop Sentamu said, “We stand together today in gratitude and in remembrance of all who served His Majesty The King at the battles of Kohima and Imphal. Kohima's War Cemetery has the renowned inscription ‘When You Go Home, Tell Them of Us and Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave our Today’. In memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice, Father God, make us better men and women, boys and girls, and give peace in our time. Amen.”