Remembering Together: Kohima and Imphal

The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland are asking communities across the country to 'Remember Together' in tribute to the service, friendship and collaboration of the men and women of Britain, the Commonwealth and the Allied nations who fought together throughout the Second World War.

At the heart of the ‘Remember Together’ campaign is a series of stories that celebrate the men and women of many nations that fought together in the build-up to D-Day 75 years ago. They highlight the collaboration between the Allied nations and the Commonwealth across key events before, during and after the Second World War.

Kohima

After declaring war against the British Empire in December 1941, the Japanese Imperial Army won a series of victories in Britain’s South East Asian colonies forcing the British armies to retreat into Northern British India.

In 1943, a force of British, pre-partition Indian, Gurkha, and African troops was assembled, eventually becoming the 14th army. At the core of this multi-cultural, multi-national force was the British-Indian army, the largest volunteer army in history, a force of 2.5 million men at its height.

Under the command of General William Slim, the 14th army was preparing to go on the offensive in Burma, when Japan launched an attack on India. Towards the end of March 1944, over 15,000 soldiers of the Japanese Imperial Army surrounded a British and Indian garrison of 2,500 men in Kohima.

In some of the fiercest close quarters fighting of the Second World War, the garrison held on until April 18th when a relief column broke the Japanese line and relieved the besieged British and Indian troops.

Imphal

Although the siege at Kohima was broken, fighting continued until the Allied forces were able to link with forces at Imphal. British and Indian troops had been besieged at Imphal since April 5th, but relief forces had fought their way through by mid-May and by June 22nd had been completely relieved.

The besieged units were able to carry on fighting thanks to a unique system of resupply, relying heavily of supply missions flown by the RAF who dropped nearly 19,000 tons of supplies, over 12,000 men and evacuated around 13,000 casualties.

The success of the resupply missions – named the ‘Box` system after a previous battle where the approach was used – alongside the courage and determination of the 14th Army dealt the Japanese Imperial Army the worst defeat in its history. Of the 85,000 Japanese troops that entered the battles, 53,000 were killed or declared missing. The 14th Army suffered nearly 17,000 casualties.

The Stories of Kohima and Imphal

The stories told by the men who fought at Kohima and Imphal are stories of ferocious attacks, hand-to-hand fighting, treating the wounded under fire, with nowhere to evacuate casualties to, and relief at reinforcements finally arriving.

The battles of Kohima and Imphal changed the course of the war in South East Asia. Arguably the greatest British led victory of the war, the triumph destroyed any belief in the invincibility of the Japanese Imperial Army. The 14th Army went on to win victory after victory.

Totalling almost one million personnel by May 1945, the 14th Army had become the largest army in the Commonwealth. It had retaken much of Burma and was readying to retake Malaya and Singapore before the Japanese surrendered after atomic bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Our fundraising partnership

This year is the fourth year of Golden Charter’s fundraising partnership with The Royal British Legion and its sister organisation, Poppyscotland.

Suzanne Grahame, Golden Charter CEO, said: “Over the past three years, we have raised over £280,000 for the Armed Forces community with the help of our network of independent funeral directors. There is no better way to honour all of those who have served and continue to serve in the Armed Forces than to support the transformative work of The Royal British Legion, which is improving the lives of servicemen and woman every day.”

A £25 donation will be made to The Royal British Legion or Poppyscotland for every eligible funeral plan sold by Golden Charter or any of our network of over 2,900 independent funeral directors across.

All funds raised by The Royal British Legion and Poppyscotland will help provide valuable support for the Armed Forces community – including veterans, serving men and women and their families.