Kohima Battle Museum Accredited
Wednesday, May 06, 2009
The Kohima Museum, North Yorkshire’s smallest military museum, has won national accreditation which was presented last week when the veterans of the Second World War Battle of Kohima gathered in York to remember the fallen.
The certificate from the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA) Accreditation Scheme was presented by Doctor Keith Bartlett from the MLA to the most senior Army officer in the North of England and Scotland, Major General David McDowall MBE, at the museum in Imphal Barracks, Fulford, York.
The Museums, Libraries and Archives Council Accreditation Scheme sets nationally agreed standards for UK museums. To meet the requirements of the scheme, museums must demonstrate that they achieve clearly defined standards relating to governance and management, services for users, visitor facilities and collections management.
Kohima, a hill town in Nagaland, 5,000 feet (1,500 metres) above sea level in the middle of the Naga Hills in North East India, was the location of one of the most bitterly fought battles of the Second World War.
The Kohima reunion has taken place annually in York to commemorate the Battle of Kohima which took place from April to June 1944 when Allied Forces halted the advance of the Japanese Army in Asia. This year’s service in York Minster was conducted by the Reverend Angus MacLeod, the Senior Chaplain of 15 (North East) Brigade, and the blessing was given by the Reverend Canon Dr Jonathan Draper.
Mr Rob Lyman of the Kohima Educational Trust read Pericles’ Funeral Oration and other readings were given by 2 Signal Regiment’s Second-in-Command, Major Jez Toze, and the Regimental Sergeant Major, Warrant Officer Class 1 Justin March.
The Battle of Kohima can be divided into two phases: the 13-day long siege; and the clearance of the Japanese from the area, opening up the road from Dimapur to Imphal. The Royal West Kents and the remainder of the 161st Indian Brigade, supported by other troops, dug trenches on and around Garrison Hill in a bid to prevent the Japanese gaining control of this vital area and the main logistic route to Imphal. The Army’s 2nd Division was sent to their aid and mounted its famous engagement to relieve the embattled garrison at Kohima.
Despite being hampered by monsoon rain and treacherous terrain, allied soldiers succeeded in taking Kohima in hand-to-hand fighting, significantly in the gardens and tennis courts of the District Commissioner’s bungalow.
This battle was ultimately to prove to be the turning point of the Burma Campaign. Earl Mountbatten described it as ‘probably one of the greatest battles in history’. At the end of the service wreaths were laid at the Kohima Memorial in the Minster Gardens by Major General McDowall, General Officer Commanding 2nd Division, and by Kohima veteran Major Gordon Graham MC and Bar, late The Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders.
Those that fell in battle 65 years ago were remembered by a minute’s silence and a bugler from the Band of the King’s Division sounded the Last Post and Reveille. The veterans, all of them over 80 years old, and their families then attended a reception at Imphal Barracks and had the opportunity to browse the newly-accredited Kohima Museum which houses many photos, letters and memorabilia from the period – the majority of which have been donated by the veterans.