The Battle of Kohima began in early April 1944 with the siege of the village of Kohima. The British and Indian troops who were defending the village were pushed back to the line of the tennis court which was in the garden of what had been the Deputy Commissioner’s bungalow. By mid-April, the 2nd Dorset Regiment had arrived to reinforce the troops. They were part of the British Army’s 2nd Division and were given the DC’s bungalow and his tennis court as objectives. The bitter fighting that ensued was close hand-to-hand combat in the most unforgiving jungle terrain. Perhaps one of the most iconic moments of this battle was when the Dorsets succeeded, on 13th May 1944, in taking back control of the tennis court.
The Japanese Imperial Army was overpowered: this victory at Kohima was the first time the Japanese had been defeated on land and it marked a turning point in the Far East campaign. The heroic efforts of the Allies to halt the Japanese advance into India have seen the battle of Kohima compared to the battle of Stalingrad, such was the strategic importance of the victory.
With an introduction by KET Trustee, Dr Robert Lyman, the Kohima Educational Trust is delighted to welcome guest speakers, Christopher Jary, author and Trustee of The Keep Military Museum in Dorchester, and Elliot Metcalfe, Director of The Keep Military Museum, who will tell us more about the 2nd Dorsets and their place in history.
The recording of the talk is now available to view:
Christopher metioned 'Gus' Claxton - The Rev L. E. M. Claxton MC - was the Padre to the 2nd Dorset Regiment at the Battle of Kohima. His obituary can be read here
Dr Robert Lyman - Military Historian, Author and Trustee of KET Born in New Zealand in January 1963 and educated in Australia, Robert Lyman was, for twenty years, an officer in the British Army. Educated at Scotch College, Melbourne he was commissioned into the Light Infantry from the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, in April 1982. In addition to a business career he is an author and military historian, publishing books in particular on the war in the Far East. He is a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society. Robert is married to Hannah, has two sons, and lives in Berkshire. For information about Robert's publications please visit his website: robertlyman.com
Christopher Jary, author and Trustee of The Royal Hampshire Regiment Museum. Christopher will be 67 the day after this Webinar! He has written nine books, co-written four, edited four and helped with several others. Most are about military history – principally Second World War – but one was a family story and three explained how British government works. His first book – in 1990 – told the story of his mother’s first husband, Jack Wetherly, who was killed flying with RAF Bomber Command. He was a regular reviewer for British Army Review.
Christopher spent 35 years in government, half of them as a civil servant and the other half at the Civil Service College teaching about the ethics and practicalities of the working relationship between ministers and civil servants. Having retired at 55, he has devoted the last dozen years to the human stories of military history and enjoying Dorset.
Elliot Metcalfe, Director of The Keep Military Museum in Dorset. Elliot has a keen interest in military history and has given several talks on a variety of military subjects, with a focus on the Great War. His interest in the campaign in Burma during the Second World War stems from stories his grandfather told him about his service as a young wartime soldier in Burma and the Far East.
Elliot has previously worked for The King’s Royal Hussars Museum in Winchester and was a member of the Army Reserve for 11 years. He enjoys writing a military history blog in his spare time and publishing online his research into wartime Dorset.
Sylvia May - CEO of The Kohima Educational Trust Sylvia May was born in New Jersey, USA in 1957. Her parents moved to England in 1963. Educated at High Wycombe School for Girls, she decided to pursue a career in the world of books. Sylvia worked for HarperCollins for 37 years, the last eleven of which she headed up their UK-based International Sales team. Sylvia May is the daughter of the late Gordon Graham, Founder and President of the Kohima Educational Trust. She is proud that her father has inspired many people to share his vision to commemorate those who fought and died in Kohima, and the wonderful Naga people who have done so much for the British in the past. She first visited India in 1994 with her husband Robert, and has returned on numerous occasions, staying in Kohima several times. In 2000, they followed the WWII route of the Queens Own Cameron Highlanders, her father’s regiment. The regiment’s first main engagement in this theatre of war was at Zubza shortly before the Battle of Kohima.