TODAY -

Western Front Pilgrimage 2016

Christopher Johnson *

in memory of those who died in the Great War of 1914-18 : the cemetery at La Chapelette British and Indian cemetery in Perrone
in memory of those who died in the Great War of 1914-18 : the cemetery at La Chapelette British and Indian cemetery in Perrone



A British family pays respects to their Fallen and to those from Manipur in France and Belgium during the Great War 1914-18

Every evening since 1928 (except during WWII) at precisely eight o'clock at the Menin Gate in Belgium, the Buglers from the Ypres Fire Brigade play the Last Post and Reveille in memory of those who died in the Great War of 1914-18. Myself and four other members of my family travelled from the UK to be present on the evening of the 23rd of April this year to honour those of our family who fought and those who died during those terrible four years.

In addition to our family pilgrimage we also had other acts of Remembrance to perform on behalf of our Manipuri friends. As members of the Manipur based World War II Imphal Campaign Foundation we sought to find the graves of some of those men of the Manipur Labour Corps killed in the Great War who lay in cemeteries dotted throughout France.

The Corps was raised in 1917 by the King of Manipur Maharaj Churachand when an official request from the Political Agent was sent out to all the villages in Manipur asking for two thousand labourers. These men would have the vital job of digging trenches, clearing battlefields and moving supplies, allowing the fighting troops to concentrate with fighting rather than doing all the mundane work of war as well. Official documentary evidence shows that around seventy men from Manipur were killed in action or died of sickness in France and an untold number wounded. Others were lost in Italy, Egypt and Yemen.

The second day of our pilgrimage took us to the site of the battle in which my great uncle James Rowe was killed in 1915. He has no known grave and may still be laying under the field where I planted a poppy cross in his memory. From there we visited various museums about the Great War and the largest Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in the world at Tyne Cot.

In this vast cemetery lay the remains of nearly twelve thousand soldiers of whom only three thousand six hundred are identified. In addition to this the names of a further thirty five thousand men with no known graves are carved on the walls around the cemetery. All these men were killed just within the area of Ypres alone. We finished the day in the area where my brother in law's grandfather Richard Westgate was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in 1917.

The next day was spent visiting other memorials and in particular the huge and impressive Canadian monument at Vimy Ridge where again thousands of men were lost in fierce battles. We visited and paid our respects at the graves of two more of my family members, James Latimer and George Wardell, before going in search of the first of our Manipuri men. This was at Barly cemetery, a combined French and British cemetery that was quite isolated.

Here, because we believe he may be the first Manipuri to be specifically visited (certainly no family member has been), we placed a poppy wreath in memory of all Manipuri's at the grave of Arkhill Pukhini who was killed on the 4th May 1918. He is the only Manipuri buried in this cemetery but he lay's alongside some of his Indian brothers.

The next stop along our route was the cemetery at La Chapelette British and Indian cemetery in Perrone. This beautiful cemetery has nearly six hundred British and Indian burials and in amongst them are three from the Manipur Labour Corps. We soon found Kapani Ashio (killed 3rd December 1917) and Shishi Limu (6th December 1917) as they were buried side by side and a poppy cross was placed on each grave.

Beautiful purple irises were in full bloom and stood out in contrast to the deep green of the short grass surrounding the burial plots. A few more rows of Indian graves away stood the headstone of Thurm Vung (19th December 1917) and a poppy cross was placed for him too. It is thought that they may have died of wounds as this was the location of the Lucknow Casualty Clearing Station at the time of their deaths.

On the last day (a very busy one!) we saw the Lochnagar Crater, the largest crater on the Western Front, caused when British miners placed a huge charge of explosives under the German trenches to signal the start of the Battle of the Somme on the 1st July 1916. This battle is remembered as the British Army's worst day when twenty thousand men were killed and a further thirty or forty thousand wounded.

in memory of those who died in the Great War of 1914-18 : buglers at Menin Gate
in memory of those who died in the Great War of 1914-18 : buglers at Menin Gate



My grandfather Nathaniel Rowe was only a mile or so away when this went up, with the explosion being heard in London it is said. A few miles further north we visited the Thiepval Memorial where another family member is commemorated. Sadly the monument was being repaired in time for this year's hundredth anniversary of the Battle of the Somme and we could not get to see his name carved there.

However, we went to Delville Wood where Ernest Smith was killed and still lays there with thousands of soldiers from both sides as their bodies were never recovered because of all the unexploded ordnance making it too dangerous.

In this part of France one can travel no further than a few hundred yards without seeing a cemetery ranging from those that contain only a handful of graves to those with hundreds or even thousands.

Our next stop was at Neuve Chapelle where the impressive Indian Memorial is situated. Still pockmarked with bullet and shrapnel scars from World War II, the circular white stone walls, modelled on the enclosures of Indian shrines, contain the carved names of over four and a half thousand Indian soldiers who travelled five thousand miles from home to die in the muddy battlefields of France. (A similar number are commemorated on the Menin Gate mentioned above.) Here we placed a poppy wreath in memory of those brave Indian soldiers and signed the visitors book before moving on to our final destination of the pilgrimage.

La Paradis is infamous in the annals of our local county regiment The Royal Norfolk Regiment as the place where nearly a hundred unarmed prisoners were murdered. During the British retreat to Dunkirk in May 1940 elements of the regiment were surrounded and taken prisoner of war.

The German SS marched the men to a local farm and machine-gunned them down. Some of the bullets can still be seen imbedded in the wall of the barn. At this spot we laid a wreath and drank a toast to those men. My father George Johnson would have known some of them as he was in the same regiment though thankfully not with them at the time.

With our duties completed we headed home happy in the knowledge of a successful Pilgrimage of Remembrance. Already we are planning our next one when we can visit more of Manipur's forgotten men that lay in the cemeteries in France.

Those who partook in the Pilgrimage were Christopher Johnson, Harry Johnson, Andrew Westgate, David Westgate, Ken Westgate.


* Christopher Johnson wrote this article
The article was forwarded by Rajeshwor Yumnam (of World War II Imphal Campaign Foundation) who can be contacted at yrs001(AT)gmail(DOT)com
This article was webcasted on May 04 , 2016.



* Comments posted by users in this discussion thread and other parts of this site are opinions of the individuals posting them (whose user ID is displayed alongside) and not the views of e-pao.net. We strongly recommend that users exercise responsibility, sensitivity and caution over language while writing your opinions which will be seen and read by other users. Please read a complete Guideline on using comments on this website.


LATEST IN E-PAO.NET
  • Dzukou Valley Landscape #6 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 15 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Is sports dwindling in Manipur's education
  • Startup Acceleration Program for NE
  • Applications for Agri Innovators & Startups
  • Focus on pre-production - Manipuri cinema
  • Harassment of Laishram Herojit
  • Coconut oil for summer beauty
  • Consultative Meeting on RIIN
  • Crossing the two lakh barrier
  • Marathon @ Yaoshang Sports : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 14 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • COVID-19 : Impact in Manipur :: News Timeline
  • Conference on Algebra & Applications
  • 14th April, 1944: Its significance ..
  • Investigation regarding Lamhainamdi incident
  • Demise of passionate filmmaker, EM Kay Jeet
  • World Art Day at Manipur University
  • Human rights organization NCHRO
  • Mount Koubru caught in a storm
  • Friend or foe
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba Chak Katpa : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 13 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Athoubasinggi Numit tributes #1 : Gallery
  • Application : Medical Financial Assistance
  • The Power of Prayer
  • Pharmaceutical Sales Representatives
  • What issues will decide 2022 Assembly poll
  • Sajibu Nongma Panba Shopping : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 12 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Importance of film preservation: Cine Dialogue
  • Decline in number of Cinema Halls
  • Moment With My Pen :: Poem
  • Michelangelo in my drawing room
  • Get vaccinated call
  • Nongpok Ningthou Phoudamba #2 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 11 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Sajibu Cheiraoba (Meitei New Year Day) :: Book
  • Golden Jubilee of Manipuri Cinema : Report
  • Think it differently
  • 2nd wave poses an increasing danger
  • Interesting twist to pending ADC elections
  • Yaoshang Sports @Laipubam : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 10 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Of Nambul River & Prof Rajendra Ksh #2
  • Lok Adalat at various places in Manipur
  • Covid-19 Survey : for science community
  • A Slave or A Master ! :: Poem
  • Spiritual flight journey
  • Workshop on NEP at Lilong
  • Old Manipuri Movie #2 : eRang Classic
  • COVID-19 Status 09 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Yurreipem, Zingyo, Changton: eMing
  • can the dignity of menstruation be increased
  • Incentivize vaccination for success
  • Need for Flexible Education in Manipur
  • MoU with Film Heritage Foundation
  • Unwanted deafening silence
  • Hun : Thadou biggest cultural festival
  • COVID-19 Status 08 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Licypriya addressed UN Youth Forum 2021
  • Status of women in the 21st century
  • ..we will fail to achieve Health For All
  • Monolith at Manipuri cinema Golden Jubilee
  • Complaint filed to MHRC on Sanaton death
  • Indifference to the fast spread of virus
  • Abridged Translation of Sanamahi Laihui #2
  • COVID-19 Status 07 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Ningtham Kummei @JNMDA #2 : Gallery
  • Career in Poultry Science
  • Form independent investigation commission
  • Need of actions to control air pollution
  • Politics surrounding call for ADC polls
  • Nongpok Ningthou Phoudamba #1 : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 06 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Journalists' Sports Meet #2 : Gallery
  • COVID test a must for all incoming flight
  • World Autism Awareness Day 2021
  • Architects @ Makok Technologies, Keinou
  • Bridge :: Poem
  • Second wave spreading swiftly
  • Yaoshang: Cooking Competition : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 05 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • World Veterinary Day, 2021
  • What is it in the name? Famous 'Michaels'
  • The Last Night :: Poem
  • Rehabilitating drug users
  • When Money matters, sincerity is out
  • Cultural Fest of Manipur #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 04 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Mai-Own : Produces from Manipur #3: Gallery
  • 'Manipur Model' of Homestays gets booster
  • Manipur Lokayukta: Today's Imperative
  • Second wave could delay economic recovery
  • Give teeth to war on drugs
  • Thabal Chongba @Bamon Leikai #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 03 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • The Joy of Easter Sunday
  • What's happening in Myanmar
  • Easter : A strange & unique celebration
  • For One To Faithful :: Poem
  • Executive member : Physics Academy NE
  • Abridged Translation of Sanamahi Laihui #1
  • COVID-19 Status 02 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Relief @ Rajaimei, Senapati : Gallery
  • The Ultimate Sacrifice
  • ST demand may become redundant
  • Addiction to drugs & alcohol
  • NHPC visit 510 MW Teesta-V
  • Creating space for super spreader
  • Day 3: Yaoshang Sports Meet : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 01 Apr : Govt of Manipur
  • Journalists' Sports Meet #1 : Gallery
  • World Autism Awareness Day 2021
  • Cut Money: The Virus of Illfare in Welfare
  • Vigyan Vidushi : Physics for women students
  • Mulling over the absolute
  • Arrest of former Salai Chairman
  • Yaoshang Nakatheng Chatpa : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 31 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipur Champion in Natl Thang-Ta C'ship
  • Yaoshang Pichakari : Gallery
  • Eyek Tamba :: Learn the Manipuri script
  • We are all Human ! :: Poem
  • Adequate nutrition for productive society
  • ADC elections assured, but when? ATSUM
  • Thabal Chongba @Bamon Leikai #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 30 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • April Calendar for Year 2021 : Tools
  • Marathon Race- Kanglei Sports: Gallery
  • Paradise found. Paradise made.
  • AR organises anti drug awareness campaign
  • Fire @ Shirui, Ukhrul [Mar 29] : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 29 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Yaoshang MeiThaba @Kwakeithel: Gallery
  • Relief at Rajaimei & Tumuyon Khullen
  • Mask up to beat the second Covid wave
  • Yaoshang MeiThaba @Bamon Leikai: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 28 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Promotion of science @Senapati : Gallery
  • In need of a savior: the wailing of Myanmar
  • Science Awareness Programme at Senapati
  • World Sleep Day 2021 #2
  • AR interacts with ex-servicemen
  • Journalists' Sports Meet- Opening : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 27 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Film Preservation & Archiving Workshop
  • Fullmoon :: Poem
  • Appeal for assistance to Myanmar victims
  • Holi colour can cause dangerous side-effect
  • Training Program on Mushroom Cultivation
  • On Equality
  • Saroi Khangba @Imphal #2: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 26 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Mai-Own : Produces from Manipur #2: Gallery
  • War on drugs & sports movement
  • Yaoshang (Holi) Festival :: Book
  • Will advances in TB outweigh Covid-19 ?
  • Expecting Rs 14567 crore from the Centre
  • Still making waves in the the year 2021
  • War on Drugs: The uncheck loopholes
  • Junior Men & Women Hockey : Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 25 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Account Assistant @ Amber & Arthur, Imphal
  • Principle of Self Determination & Peace
  • A Poem's Story
  • NDPP delegation visited Assam
  • Climbing cases in the last few days
  • Human Rights issues & Tangkhul Women #4
  • COVID-19 Status 24 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • World Water Day Water
  • The Night :: Poem
  • Demand to book Lamhainamdi incident
  • Five Films for Freedom, LGBTIQ+ campaign
  • Touch stance with look at past 'mistakes'
  • For a little bit more
  • Mai-Own : Produces from Manipur #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 23 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Lamjing Meira Episode 1 - AMAND Ladies
  • World Sleep Day 2021 #1
  • Science Awareness Program at Wabagai
  • Towards Special Agricultural Zone in Manipur
  • Office Bearers- Manipur Soccer Futsal Assn
  • Of forest and water in the world
  • Chingu Paokhollei Leirang - Ingellei
  • COVID-19 Status 22 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Manipur: Team champion, Natl Bodybuilding
  • One Midsummer Dream :: Poem
  • Public auction theory & policy
  • BJP likely to retain Assam
  • Imagination: Not a child's play
  • Climbing cases across the country
  • TAPASYA Foundation day #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 21 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Of Nambul River & Prof Rajendra Ksh #1
  • Khengjang-Yangoulen Fish Conservation
  • Workshop on NEP 2020 at Manipur Univ
  • Cyclist Philem Rohan reached Bengaluru
  • Delhi Citizens extend solidarity with Myanmar
  • Create ADCs first ultimatum
  • Saroi Khangba @Imphal #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 Status 20 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Measures to contain COVID-19 in Yaoshang
  • Science Education @ Chandel : Gallery
  • Consultants @ The Property Geo, Imphal
  • The Myanmar crisis & our options
  • Whither Homeland... :: Poem
  • Course in Kinanthropometry
  • Awareness of science education in SC school
  • Understanding value of 'Time' & 'Money'
  • Human Rights issues & Tangkhul Women #3
  • Book- 'Critics forum Manipur' : Gallery
  • Realization in the dark :: Poem
  • 39th Orientation Program at MU
  • Gauri Healthy Heart Mission at Kakching
  • State of democracy in Thailand : Discussion
  • Disturbing reports of deaths
  • Stop sand mining from River bank
  • Sharungbam Rameshor: Yuva Puraskar
  • COVID-19 Status 18 Mar : Govt of Manipur
  • Brewing Bio Entrepreneurships in Manipur
  • Mayasvi festival of the Tsou of Taiwan
  • Accountants at R-Square Design
  • Myanmar Memories
  • Staring at second wave of the virus
  • Inauguration and Launching Galore
  • Shopping List for Shivaratri #2: Gallery
  • Causes & solutions of unemployment
  • Where Fate Leads :: Poem
  • 'Dry fish' from Chittagong
  • Education for CWSN
  • ST demand: Gearing up for stir
  • Gadgets matters
  • Houses @Yangkhullen, Senapati : Gallery
  • World War II, INA & Manipuri Literature #3
  • Is there a perfect referee in football ?
  • Naga Peace Process :: News Timeline
  • The way to equal future
  • The magic of Coriander in skincare
  • From a high of 426 to zero
  • So far so good
  • My memories of Imphal from 1941 #20
  • Mushroom training @MayangImphal: Gallery
  • Rih-Ngai Fest @Kakhulong : Gallery
  • Imphal City from Nongmai Ching #2: Gallery
  • Aries Haoneo Kuki : Singer Profile :: eRang
  • Featured Front Page Photo 2021 #1: Gallery
  • COVID-19 vaccination [Jan 16] #2 : Gallery
  • Downloadable Manipuri Calendar :: 2021
  • 'Zehara' - Manipuri Movie :: eRang Classic
  • SPONSORED ADS