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

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”.

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