KOHIMA EPITAPH

Everybody quotes the famous Kohima Epitaph, but very few know the exact origin. It has been very often wrongly attributed to Leonidas, King of Sparta who fought to the death to defend the pass against Xerxes and the Persian army at the battle of Thermopylae (480 B.C.) .

In fact, it was the poet Simonides of Ceos (Kios) (586 – 468 B.C.), who immortalised it as: “O stranger, go home and tell the Spartans that we lie here in obedience to their orders”.

During the Spanish civil war, curiously enough, it was the same thought “to hold the pass to death”, which influenced the Spanish Republicans in their famous “no pasarán” (they will not pass) fierce defence of Teruel.

The sentiment in the epitaphs is certainly Spartan in tone and the writers were influenced by their classical education.The first of them was written by J. M. Edmonds for a graveyard in France, circa 1916 during the First World War: When you go home tell them of us, and say ‘For your to-morrows these gave their to-day’

The original version of the Kohima Epitaph which is inscribed on the monument was unveiled at Kohima in November 1944.

The author was Major John Etry-Leal, the G.S.O. II of the 2nd Division. He was a classical scholar and had imperfectly remembered what J.M. Edmonds had written. His version reads:
“When you go home Tell them of us and say For your tomorrow We gave our to-day”.

Minster Lodge Donation

The Minster Lodge of the York Freemasons have very generously donated £200 to the museum fro the purpose of refurbishing a display cabinet to house a new display for Major General John Malcolm Lawrence Grover CB MC*.

The new Grover Cabinet

The new Grover Cabinet


General Grover was the General Officer Commanding, the British 2nd Infantry Division and other formations from the Indian Army during his successful execution of the Battle of Kohima and for control of the Kohima Imphal Road against the 31st Division of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Members of the Minster Lodge gathered to take part in a guided tour of Historic Imphal Barracks conducted by Brian Ward TD followed by a presentation of the Battle and tour of the Museum conducted by the Curator Bob Cook.

The Worshipful Master of the Lodge – Mr Bob Burrows then presented a cheque to Bob Cook for the Grover display which now hold a plaque to commemorate the event.

Worshipful Master presents a cheque to Curator Bob Cook

Worshipful Master presents a cheque to Curator Bob Cook

Kohima Museum goes to the Public

If the public won’t come to the Museum…the Museum must then go to the Public. On Armed Forces Day this year the Kohima Museum Mobile Display was deployed to York City Centre. Several hundred members of the public processed through the display and were treated to a very comprehensive interpretation of this almost forgotten battle from the almost forgotten Burma Campaign.

Brian Ward TD explains the Kohima tactical  layout

Brian Ward TD explains the Kohima tactical layout

A significant number of members of the public engaged with museum curator Bob Cook and assistant curator Brian Ward TD. Ted Robinson, our museum assistant kept tally with his clicker and all agreed that the awareness of Kohima, Burma and the 14th Army were substantially enhanced

The curator flanked by Ted Robinson and Brian Ward

The curator Bob Cook flanked by Ted Robinson and Brian Ward

 

The Cross Keys of the British 2nd Division show clearly

The Cross Keys of the British 2nd Division show clearly

 

Visit by the REME Association

The Doncaster Branch of the REME Association attended the Museum on a trip organised by WO1 (ASM) Bob Strachan. Some members of the Branch together with their Ladies were given a personal welcome by the Curator and then received a short presentation of the Battle of Kohima, after which they were invited to explore the museum before joining WO1 Strachan in the WO’s & Sgt’s Mess for lunchIMG_0529

Doncaster Branch members of the REME Association with their Ladies

WO1 (ASM) Bob Strachan is on the right

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Just the guys this time with Curator Bob Cook on the left

Museum Staff Attend Book Launch

Museum Staff attend Book launch

In early November 2011 the curator of the museum (Bob Cook) and his assistant (Brian Ward) were invited to attend the launch of the latest book on the Burma Campaign.

Japan’s Final Bid for Victory was written by well-known author and military historian Rob Lyman. Rob – a retired army officer is also the Chairman of the Kohima Educational Trust, a charity set up by Veterans of the Battle of Kohima to sponsor poor but gifted children of the Naga tribes who would otherwise have no opportunity for further education. This in some small way serves to repay the Naga tribesmen and women for the great and valuable assistance which they tendered without question to the British and Indian troops during the Battle for Kohima and subsequent actions.

Also attending the launch was Mrs Akiko Macdonald, Chairwoman of the Burma Campaign Society. The BCS continues to foster Anglo Japanese goodwill and cooperation through the mediums of education and communication.

Mrs Macdonald’s father was a lieutenant veterinary surgeon serving with the 31st Division of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Bradford School Children Take a Trip Back in Time

BRADFORD SCHOOL CHILDREN TAKE A TRIP BACK IN TIME

A dozen Year 10 pupils from Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College in Bradford have visited a World War II museum in York to discover more about their ancestors.

Pupil Sarah Wright (15) models a British military uniform from the 1940s to other students from Laisterdyke Business and Enterprise College in Bradford.

The Kohima Museum, based in Imphal Barracks, Fulford, York commemorates the deeds and actions of the British 2nd Division from 1942 – 1946 paying particular attention to the Siege and Battle of Kohima. It hosts a vast selection of memorabilia from the event including war diaries, uniforms, medals, maps, charts, ground photographs and weapons.

The students witnessed the visual differences in warfare between 1942 and 2012 by examining different artefacts, and speaking to Gurkha soldiers from 2 Signal Regiment about their modern day experiences. They also had the opportunity to model military dress from the different periods, and discover what life was like for an every day soldier by marching across the barracks to the Kohima Restaurant to sample what the military of today eat in the battle field.

Owais Masood (15) and Awais Ahmed (14) lead the march around Imphal Barracks, York.

WO2 Shamim Ahmed from the Royal Logistics Corps, who hosted the visit said:

“It’s very important for these teenagers to find out more about their shared history, especially their military history where some of their Great Grandfathers would have taken part in the Battle of Kohima, preventing the Japanese invasion into India. They need to realise that although we live in England, their ancestors equally took part in the battles of the Second World War along with other countries.

Pupils Owais Masood (15) and Becky Keaney (15) try on the kit with Ghurkha soldiers from 2 Signal Regiment.

“Hopefully visiting the Barracks has opened their eyes up to the possibility of an Army career too, and given them an experience they haven’t had before.”

The school visit was co-ordinated as part of the Prince of Wales’ Mosaic Mentoring programme, which inspires young people from deprived communities to realise their talents and potential. The programme links young people with inspirational role models to boost their confidence, self-efficacy and long-term employability.

Gerard Liston and some of his students.

Teacher Gerard Liston, from Laisterdyke College explained:

““Working with employer guests like the Army adds a lot to students’ opportunities for learning, giving them a taste of life beyond school. The visit to the Museum and Army Barracks has been excellent creating a great incentive, and a super variety of experiences that would not normally be open to school children.”
Pupil Sarah Wright (15) from Bradford said:

“The visit’s been really good, I’ve really enjoyed myself. The artefacts that were on display in the museum were interesting and I didn’t think they would have things that old on an Army Camp. The marching was really fun too, but a bit tiring!”

Awais Ahmed (14) looking well hard!

Pupil Awais Ahmed (14) said:

“I learned a lot of stuff I didn’t know before, especially about Army life with how the soldiers feel and the gear they have to wear. You can see how much their kit has improved; I was shocked at what they wore back in World War Two. It seemed really light and not as strong as what they wear now.”

Right you lot! Get fell in!

The College then went on to visit the “We Were There” exhibition at Kala Sangam, Bradford which highlights the contribution made by the people of Asia, Africa and the West Indies to the defence of Britain going back 250 years.

John Jessop bids farewell to the Kohima Museum

Major (Rtd) John Jessop bids farewell to the Kohima Museum after 24 years.

Major John Jessop has decided to step away from the wheel at last to finally enjoy his postponed retirement from using his considerable administrative & management skills in the service of others.

After some 20 years of association with the Kohima Museum, first as assistant curator then as curator, treasurer & secretary to the trustees, then as a trustee and deputy chairman, John has called it a day.

At the end of the 41st meeting of the Trustees, Major John Jessop was presented with a framed print of the famous painting of the “Battle of the Tennis Court” by Brigadier Greville Bibby CBE, the Commander 15 (North East) Brigade and Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the 2nd Divisional Kohima Museum Memorial Trust. The original painting of the print by Cuneo hangs in the museum on loan from Headquarters 2nd Division in Edinburgh.

During his long connection to the museum, John Jessop was instrumental in seeing the progress of the museum from being a loose collection of donated memorabilia through initial registration to full accreditation under the then current regulations of the Museum, Libraries and Arts Council (MLA), thereby bringing the Kohima Museum onto the same playing field as the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Imperial War Museum and the other big nationals.

As the number of Kohima Veterans declined, it was decided to reduce the Reunion weekend to a single day to include a memorial service in York Minster. It was at this time that the Kohima Educational Trust (KET) was formed. Major Jessop was a founder trustee of this charity and became the secretary and treasurer. The aim of the KET is to sponsor poor but talented Naga children to enable them to gain further education where they would not normally be able to afford it. In this way it was hoped that a small part of the debt which the 2nd Division owed to the Naga people could be repaid for the staunch and loyal support which they gave in the fight against the Japanese Imperial Army.

Now retired Major Jessop from the KET, the Museum and from any other office held, het still maintains his links with them as he still goes into work with SSAFA.

Ellen Hannay Story

Lance Sergeant Robert Bell Hannay was killed in action on 14th April 1944 during the 2nd Division’s advance to Kohima to relieve the besieged garrison there. He was with the 1st Queens Own Cameron Highlanders and was just 30 years old.

He left behind his wife Ellen Hannay. She never remarried and joined the Woman’s Voluntary Service and volunteered for service in the Far East. It was in this capacity that she was able to visit the new cemetery on the old battlefield of Garrison Hill in Kohima in December 1945.

Ellen Hannay was without doubt the first widow to visit the grave of her husband at this cemetery. Over the rest of her life Ellen Hannay revisited the Kohima War Cemetery at least 8 times and when she passed away in 2010, her nephew Jim Gibson sought and gained permission from the Indian & British governments and the Commonwealth War Graves Commission for her ashes to be laid to rest in the grave of her husband.

After travelling to Kohima in October 2010 with a party from the Royal British Legion, Jim finally reunited the remains of his Aunt Ellen with those of her husband in the grave which has held him since 1944