The Scope of the Collection

Until recently, the Kohima Museum in York concentrated almost completely on the British 2nd Infantry Division and the part this division played in the Burma Campaign. The artefacts and other items collected have reflected this and over the years many objects have been turned down as being outside this boundary.

With the shrinking number of veterans and the increasing number of family members wishing to learn more of the battles that their grandfathers, fathers and uncles fought in, it was decided that the scope of the Kohima collection should be broadened to encompass all of the Burma Campaign. This would also provide a growing centre for learning and research in the north of the country.

It was also realised that this small unfunded museum was the ONLY museum in the whole of the UK that provided a window to the longest running campaign of WW2. The remainder of the many thousands of men and woman who served in India and Burma and their families can come to the Kohima Museum in York to discover just what the men wore and what weapons they used. They can also see details of the Japanese forces who they fought so desperately to defeat.

There is a small but growing section of the display area devoted to the legendary Chindits plus a display highlighting the vital and crucial part played by the Allied Air Forces.

Talk of new displays cannot pass without mention of the Naga Hill tribes of North East India. The outcome of the Battle for Kohima might have turned out different had it not been for the total support given by the men women and even children of these tribes.

The Kohima Museum of the Burma Campaign is in the final stages of getting approval for a new Charter from the Charities Commission.



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: “Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by,That faithful to their precepts here we lie.”.

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 Etty-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 for 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 partners, received a  presentation about the Battle of Kohima, & then explored 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


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 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 they tendered 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


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 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.

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 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..


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, who never remarried.  She had joined the Women’s Voluntary Service and volunteered for the Far East to be near her husband.  In his book “The Trees Are All Young On Garrison Hill”, Gordon Graham described how on the day the war ended, Ellen was close enough to Kohima to walk all night to her husband’s grave, where she knelt when dawn broke.

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 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 with a party from the Royal British Legion, he finally reunited the remains of his Aunt Ellen with those of her beloved husband in the grave which has held him since 1944.


Kohima Museum Accredited

Kohima Battle Museum Accredited

Wednesday, May 06, 2009
Source: MoD

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.