World War II and its fierce battles in Manipur
- Part 2 -

Dr Gairiangmei Maringmei *

Commemoration of 70th Anniversary, Battle of Imphal (WW II) at Indian War Cemetery, Deulalane on 27th June 2014
Commemoration of 70th Anniversary, Battle of Imphal (WW II) at Indian War Cemetery, Deulalane on 27th June 2014 :: Pix - Deepak Oinam


Shenam Saddle or Shenam Pass was the only road the Japanese could use, and it was vital for them to break through to allow Yamamoto forces or tanks and heavy artillery to attack the main defences around Imphal itself. Few kilometers north of the Shenam Saddle were Palel airfield, one of the only two all-weather airfields in the plain, and vital to the defenders.

Japanese troops attack up the road on 4 April was disjointed; the infantry were not ready to take part and twelve Japanese tanks were caught exposed on the road by British anti-tank guns. The Japanese soldiers captured a number of Indian, but Indian and British counter-attack took place and regained some of those initially lost that led to heavy casualties. There were ferocious fighting of the whole war, and hundreds and hundreds of British, Indian, Gurkha and Japanese soldiers lost their lives.

Tiddim Road

The Tiddim Road stretches northwards right up to Imphal. Point 2926 or Red Hill at Maibam Lokpaching on the Tiddim Road was the battle site where the Japanese closely got to Imphal from the south. The battles on Tiddim Road were some of the fiercest of the whole Burma war. According to General William Slim, Field Marshal of British army: "It was on the Tiddim Road and on the Silchar-Bishenpur Track that some of the heaviest fighting in the entire Battle of Imphal-Kohima took place."

Japanese repeatedly tried to break through to Imphal from the south. On the other hand, the British troops were also equally determined to prevent this from happening. Until the British finally prevailed over the Japanese troops, both sides were fighting for several months. Red Hill (Maibam Lokpaching), Bishenpur, Potsangbam, Ningthoukhong, Ninghthoukhong Kha Khu-nou, Thinunggei, Phubala, Moirang, Churachandpur etc lying on the road of Tiddim were the most affected areas during the war.


Japanese troops captured a British supply dump at Kanglatongbi on the main Imphal-Dimapur road a few kilometers away from north of Imphal, but the depot had been emptied of food and ammunition. A battalion of the Japanese 51st Regiment (which was commanded by Colonel Kimio Omoto) seized the vital Nungshigum Ridge, which overlooked the main airstrip at Imphal. Nungshigum Ridge was known as Runaway Hill by the British, along the Iril River, as well those around Molvom and Mapao, were some of the major battlefields.

According to Lyman, these hills became during the Battle of Imphal 'a Japanese defensive arena par excellence'. The battle of Nungshigum, from 7-15 April 1944, was involved a struggle for the recapture of Nungshigum massive from the Japanese, which was the closest they ever came to Imphal from the north. The Japanese troops had few effective anti-tank weapons, and they were driven from the ridge with heavy casualties. On the other side, the British used a combination of armour, artillery and infantry in the battle, together with support from the air. The attackers also lost heavily; every officer of the Carabineers and the attacking infantry was killed or wounded.

Apart from the above mentioned battle fields of Manipur, there are many known and unknown places in Manipur affected by the WW II. The World War II brought people from many foreign nations to Manipur for the first time. Further research and findings are required to understand better the subject matter.

By the time the war ended, it was one of the most brutally affected to the militaries as well as to the civilian populations. For the British, the war ended in victory, but British Empire was never the same again. Subsequently, the British Raj had to abandon her colony, India. For Japan, the end of war marked the end of its era of aggression in South East Asia and South Asia.


After the war, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission set up a cemetery in Imphal contains 1,600 graves. It also set up a cemetery in Kohima contains 1,420 graves to commemorate the British and the Indian troops who fell in the fighting during the World War II. The Kohima cemetery lies on the slopes of Garrison Hill and also contains the British 2nd Division's memorial.

The inscription on the latter has become famous as the 'Kohima Epitaph'. Attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds, it reads:

"When You Go Home,
Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Your Tomorrow,
We Gave Our Today

There is India Peace Memorial situated at Red Hill (Lotpaching), about 16 k.m. away from Imphal, commemorates the Japanese and INA troops who died in the fighting. There is also a monument dedicated to the INA at Moirang. Moirang also has a statue of Subhas Chandra Bose, the leader of INA and a museum about his troops. Besides, there are several monuments commemorate to the fallen heroes of the war.

Last year (2014), homage was paid to those who were killed in the Imphal Battle of World War II during a memorial service held at Imphal Indian War Cemetery, Hatta and Imphal War Cemetery, Dewlahland. Many representatives from different nations also came to join the event held under the aegis of the Organising Committee of the 70th Anniversary of the Battle of Imphal in collaboration with Commonwealth War Graves Commission. Manipur Governor V.K. Duggal and Deputy Chief Minister Gaikhangam led the congregation in laying wreaths and paying homage to the departed souls.

For the fallen heroes of Axis nations and Allied nations during the WWII have been sufficiently acknowledged or recognized till date, whereas for the innocent civilian population or local volunteers who made supreme sacrificed during the WWII, seems neglected by the concerned Governments. Today, many civilian victims of WWII are still living in their respective villages.

It is important to acknowledge and recognize the suffering innocent civilian populations during the WW II by making memorial or institutions in remembrance of their noble sacrifice. If such institutions establish, it will be great for the future generation to remember their noble sacrifice.


* Dr Gairiangmei Maringmei wrote this article for Hueiyen Lanpao and The Sangai Expresss
The writer is a research scholar. He can be reached at gairiangmei(aT)gmail(doT)com
The article was webcasted on June 20 2015

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