The Widely Forgotten Battle of Kohima and Imphal

The Battle of Kohima and Imphal was by far the deadliest battle to take place in India during the Second World War. Seventy years ago, thousands of soldiers died over two weeks of conflict. British and Indian forces waged bloody battle with the Japanese, whittling each other down until the Battle of Kohima and Imphal could be contained on a single tennis court.

Both sides lost quite a bit in the conflict, but none so much as the Japanese. Some of their greatest forces occupying Burma fell to the machine guns of the Allied forces. The British Empire still had a great deal of sway over India at the time, and so many Indian forces fought in the battle as well. Despite the victories at Kohima and Imphal, many people living in India today do not have much reverence for the battle. In fact, many do not remember the battle at all. This issue is exacerbated by the current presence of insurgents in the area.

Luckily, there has been a brief reprieve from insurgencies and they may actually be reaching their end. With this good fortune, and the approaching seventieth anniversary of the Battle of Kohima and Imphal, some people are hoping that the memory of the conflict might be restored. It is certainly remembered elsewhere; although the conflict took place in India, it was recently voted by the National Army Museum as the greatest battle in which Britain took part. Similarly, the Japanese consider it one of their most major defeats in military history, The New York Times reports.

At the time of the conflict, it helped to rally the troops in India and boost their confidence as a military power. Vestiges of the conflict still remain across the lands of India today, with bunkers and trenches used during the Battle of Kohima and Imphal still marking the land. Since the area is not highly populated, these traces have been almost completely untouched by man since the end of the conflict.

The Battle of Kohima and Imphal may not be widely remembered in India, but it is still commemorated to a lesser extent. A military cemetery shows clearly where the lines of the tennis court used to be, and a few soldiers that have taken part in WWI commemorations have considered taking part in the seventieth anniversary of Kohima and Imphal. Whether or not such a remembrance will actually be celebrated, however, remains yet to be seen.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE