Kohima Revisited

Return to Kohima
Gordon Graham at the 2nd Division Memorial in 2005

In January 2005 Gordon and Betty Graham, along with Robert and Sylvia May visited Kohima. Returning to Kohima sixty years after the battle, Gordon reflected that no one could grasp the severity of the 2nd Division's task or the virtuosity of its performance without going there.

"Steep jungle-covered hillsides" does not convey the sheer physical intimidation of striving up them to confront an entrenched enemy.

There are no flat places. To those below, the landscape towers. The elders of Kohima Village, red-blanketed, barefooted, wizened, clutching their wooden flagons of zu, told the visitors their stories, at a ceremony in Naga village, at which Robert May presented the villagers with a collection of books about the battle.

During the Grahams' and Mays' visit, an Advisory Committee of Naga educators was formed, headed by Mr Pheluopfelie Kesiezie, headmaster of a secondary school in Kohima. The other members are Mr Atuo Mezhür, a school teacher who is also curator of the war cemetery; Mr Charles Chasie, newspaperman and social reformer, and Mr Shürhozelie Liezietsu, the Nagaland Minister of Education, who remembers being taken away at the age of eight from Kohima village by his mother on 4 April 1944.

The family lived in the jungle until the end of June 1944. Their house, which stood on Church Knoll, was totally destroyed.

After the battle 61 years ago, British Army engineers helped the people of Kohima to rebuild their houses and also built a new hospital on the spur below Garrison Hill as well as a secondary school near Merema – structures which have weathered well the sixty years since they were built.

In the years following 1947, communications between the British veterans and their Naga allies were scarce and spasmodic, but the establishment of the Trust will do much to restore this imbalance.

Source: KET Newsletter No 1, June 2005