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

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.


Gurkha Visit Kohima

Reflections on Kohima
British Gurkhas Pokhara Battlefield Tour to Kohima, 14-22 April 2010

As I write I am looking at a photograph we took of the Kohima battlefield from near the Cameron Memorial on Naga Hill. It is a cloudy April day with grey cumulus threatening rain. In the background is the dark jungle covered peak of Mount Pulebadze. A tall radio mast now stands above the village of Jotsoma where 161st Indian Infantry Brigade formed its defensive box and allowed 24th Indian Mountain Regiment to bring down supportive fire to assist the besieged garrison. As you come down the jungle-clad slopes of Aradura Spur, where Captain Jack Randle won his Victoria Cross, the jungle now gives way to Officers’ quarters and the rust-red roof of the Catholic Church. In the photograph Kohima Ridge forms a gentle parabola from Naga Hill to Aradura Spur but the ridge is now covered with an ugly rash of buildings. There are still some pink, green and yellow splashes of simple Naga homes made of wood and corrugated tin and occasionally, in Naga Village, you come across an Angami house with its traditional crossed roof beams. In the heart of the photograph is a green oasis of trees on Garrison Hill that is the Commonwealth War Cemetery. The azaleas were all in flower in riotous pink when we visited and the roses lovingly tended in their Regimental plots. It is difficult to imagine that just over a half century ago two fading empires collided along their peripheries on these hills and that so many of their sons lie there still.

The study of former battles and campaigns can provide insights and tactical lessons relevant to today’s campaigns. The Battle of Imphal in 1944 was an excellent example of this tenet. General Slim (later Field Marshal, 1st Viscount Slim) remembered the advice he had been given by a Chinese General on how to defeat the Japanese. He was told that the Japanese always planned operations on the slimmest of logistic margins. If they could be held long enough they would over-reach themselves, run out of supplies, and could be defeated. Slim recalled this advice when he drew up 14th Army’s plan of battle for Imphal.

What Slim had not counted on was 31st Japanese Division crossing the Somra hills, in a march as epic as Hannibal’s across the Alps, to besiege the Garrison in Kohima and cut the vital road and supply line to Imphal. The battles of Kohima-Imphal, which were contemporaneous, are excellent examples of planned and reactive battles.

Kohima is a not an easy battle to study. It involved the best parts of 3 Divisions: 31st Japanese Division, 2nd British Division and Brigades from 5th and 7th Indian Divisions. The fighting went on for 64 days over incredibly difficult terrain and involved many Regiments fighting different actions simultaneously. In order to effectively study this complex battle we used the Functions in Combat, the British Army’s principles of war in the military decision making process, as a framework. Our reflections are summarised below.

Command and Control

At the highest level the Battle of Kohima-Imphal was fought between Generals Slim and Mutaguchi. It can be said that Slim nearly lost the battle of Kohima by failing to realise that a Division could move across the Somra Hills to Kohima. However, Mutaguchi and Sato definitely lost the battle, largely due to their inflexible style of command. Lieutenant General Sato did not utilise auftragstaktik or mission command to achieve his commander’s intent.

If Lieutenant General Sato had masked Kohima and pushed on to attack Dimapur the Japanese would have captured the vital supplies they needed and denied them to 4th Corps in Imphal. However, he had been told to capture and hold Kohima and this is precisely what he tried to do, failing to exploit the opportunity to achieve his commander’s intent by taking Dimapur instead.

Once Slim realised that his plan was in danger he rapidly corrected it by moving 161st Indian Infantry Brigade to Dimapur by air and 2nd British Division to Dimapur by rail whilst flying elements of 5th and 7th Indian Divisions to reinforce Imphal.

Slim was also a master at improving morale. If soldiers on the front line were on half rations he made sure that staff officers in rear headquarters were also on half rations. This usually meant that problems were rapidly resolved.

Information and Intelligence

14th Army had very good intelligence. At the start of the battle V Force agents, patrols, scouts and local tribes all provided information about the Japanese crossing the River Chindwin and advancing on Kohima-Imphal. 14th Army also had a good system of acquiring and exploiting information. Dead Japanese were searched for documents and maps which were rapidly sent back for Intelligence staff to translate and analyse. At the Battle of Sangshak, 50th Indian Parachute Brigade recovered the 15th Army plan of attack from a dead Japanese Officer. Despite being surrounded by Japanese forces they realised the value of this information and managed to smuggle it out. Slim was able to exploit this intelligence and it allowed him to readjust his plan of battle by reinforcing Kohima and Imphal.


Kohima would almost certainly have fallen if it had not been for the indirect firepower provided by 24th Indian Mountain Regiment based inside 161st Indian Infantry Brigade’s defensive box at Jotsoma, 2 miles across the valley from Kohima. Time and again, Japanese attacks on Kohima Garrison were broken up in the FUP by rapid and accurate artillery support.

Although the Allies had tanks it was very difficult to use them in the mountainous terrain of Nagaland. Often roads had to be specially built to bring them into action. Where they could be used they were a decisive factor, especially at the battle of the tennis court on Garrison Hill, where a Lee-Grant tank was finally manoeuvred into a position to blast the Japanese out of their bunkers.


Troops that were dug in, especially in deep bunkers with overhead protection, were relatively safe from the effects of indirect fire. This is why it took so long for 2nd British Division to retake Kohima Ridge from the Japanese. As soon as the indirect fire lifted, the Japanese would pop out of their bunkers and start firing at attacking troops.

Tanks were very useful in attacking bunkers because they offered protection against small arms and indirect fire. Tanks often played a crucial part in many attacks at Kohima despite the limitations of their mobility.


Slim did not believe that a Division could move across the mountainous jungle from the Chindwin to Kohima. He was wrong. 31st Division managed to move its forces along jungle tracks and used mules, porters and elephants to carry their supplies.

In order to defeat 31st Division, the British had to outflank the dug-in Japanese positions by moving on foot through the dense jungle-covered mountains. Navigation was extremely difficult and often units relied on local Nagas to act as their guides.

Finally, victory at Kohima-Imphal was achieved by Slim’s ability to reinforce and resupply Imphal and Dimapur by air. He was able to reinforce and support Kohima Garrison by redeploying units such as 161st Indian Infantry Brigade, moving them from the Arakan to Dimapur by air at short notice. This allowed Kohima Garrison to be held until further reinforcements arrived.

Combat Service Support

Slim had not forgotten the lesson he had learnt from the Chinese General about defeating the Japanese. At Kohima-Imphal he exploited the fact that the Japanese operated with limited scales of supplies. On the Allied side, the supply depot at Dimapur was 2 miles wide and 11 miles long – a lot of combat service support – with a railhead and airfields. Slim deliberately designed a plan of battle that shortened his supply line whilst lengthening that of the Japanese. When the Japanese failed to capture the supply dumps at Imphal and Dimapur they literally starved. During the battle the 14th Army also used aircraft to re-supply and reinforce their troops, something that had not been done before on such a large scale.


Although Functions in Combat are a relatively new concept in British military doctrine they are applicable to a study of Kohima. Although Kohima was a completely different type of operational environment to ongoing British Army operations in Afghanistan lessons can be drawn. The first is the over-arching importance of intelligence to plan and conduct operations. To this can be added the utilisation of indigenous forces to help procure information and the ability to translate, analyse and utilise it. The main difference is that 14th Army’s objectives were very clear: to defeat a brutal, expansionist enemy. The objectives in Afghanistan are far more complex and make the prosecution of the campaign more difficult. As one of General Stanley McChrystal’s staff officers recently commented, victory in Afghanistan “… is not going to look like a win, smell like a win, or taste like a win.”

Major R G J Beven RGR and Captain D J McKerr QGE June 2010


Sato Memorial

Why I visited Lieutenant General Kotoku Sato’s Tombstone and his Memorial Shonai-machi, Yamagata Prefecture on 16th and 17th November 2010

My Link with Lieutenant General Kotoku Sato

I became very interested in Lieutenant General Sato, because my father, Taiji Urayama, was a lieutenant (veterinary surgeon, 31st Regiment Mountain Artillery) in the 31st Division which was under the command of General Sato.  Mr. Hirakubo, a previous chairman of the Burma Campaign Society (I am the present chairman), was also a lieutenant (supply officer, 31st Regiment Mountain Artillery) in the 31st Division. I strongly believe that both my father and Mr Hirakubo owe their lives to the battlefield decisions taken by General Sato.

Thus I became motivated to look not just into the exploits of Lieutenant General Kotoku Sato, (1896 to1961), but also his character and personality.  Lt General Sato, who was once stigmatised as dishonourable and insane, made such a crucial decision to withdraw his men of the 31st Division of the 15th Army from the Kohima Battle, the front line of the Imphal Operation.

During the battle Lt. General Sato disobeyed his General’s order to advance, and instead pulled his troops back to the nearest food and ammunition dump to save his men from starvation, deadly diseases and dying from their wounds.
Not long after this the British-Indian army regained the Naga area completely, thus ending the Imphal operation.


The catalyst for my realisation about the lingering animosity of some ex British soldiers was the visit to the UK by the Japanese Emperor in 1998, which brought about demonstrations and anti-Japanese sentiment.  About this same time I met Mr Hirakubo, who was chairman of the Burma Campaign Society (BCS), an organisation set up to bring about reconciliation between Japanese and British old soldiers who had fought in Burma. On the death of Mr. Hirakubo in 2008 I became chairwoman of BCS.

So this is how I became involved in BCS trying to bring about reconciliation between old foes. Also I have been living in the UK for over 20 years now and I have been married to a British man for 28 years, which has helped me understand both sides and viewpoints.

Yamagata Prefecture – Shonai machi

Yamagata Prefecture is situated in the North-West of the Japanese main island and has a population of roughly 1,250,000 and an area of 9,323 km2. Shonai region is located in the North West of Yamagata Pref.  Its population of about 40,000 is mainly  agricultural. It produces a well known brand of rice called “Koshi-hikari”.

I knew that General Sato came from Shonai City in the Yamagata region of Japan and was interested in visiting his home town and visiting his grave and memorial. I also hoped that I could meet his relatives to gain more knowledge about him.  So I contacted the local government in Shonai City in August 2010 and Mr Keinichi Okuyama, Deputy Mayor of Shonai invited me to give lectures at the University and their town office when he learned that my husband and myself were planning to go to Japan in November.

General Sato’s decision during the Kohima battle to withdraw his men to a position at the rear branded him a disgraced officer in the eyes of his superior, General Mutaguchi.  Mutaguchi had a military doctor examine General Sato and he was deliberately diagnosed as insane, purely because he refused to sacrifice his men in a battle he knew was impossible to win. Then General Mutaguchi demoted General Sato and transferred him to the Philippines as a punishment for disobeying his orders. Mutaguchi did not have General Sato court martialed because he did not want his own incompetence in planning and executing the mission to be scrutinised in a courtroom, thus General Sato never had a chance to clear his name and show how his men were sent into battle with insufficient food, ammunition, medicine, etc.
The Mayor and people of Shonai-Machi were very happy to invite me to their town, someone who knew and understood about the true character of General Sato i.e. that he was an honourable man who only withdrew the 31st Division from the Kohima battle because he had the safety and welfare of his men at heart.

On my arrival in Shonai-Machi I was greeted by the deputy mayor Mr Okuyama and by a regional TV cameraman by the name of Masahiko Hasegawa. I had not been informed that TV camera would be waiting for me at the station together with the deputy mayor.  Next I met Mr. Sachio Sato who is chairman of an association that has been set up to honour the memory of Lieutenant General Sato.  Then Mr. Okuyama, the deputy mayor, drove Mr. Sato and me to the cemetery to pay respects at the grave and memorial to General Sato.  Here I dedicated the poppies and translated the messages which had been kindly given by Mr Bob Cook, curator of the Kohima Museum in York.  At the cemetery I was overwhelmed to find that there were many heads of local associations and several newspaper and TV reporters waiting to ask me questions about the reasons for my visit.  I really wanted to visit General Sato’s grave so that I could thank him for saving my father’s life during the Kohima battle by withdrawing his men.  Because it is evident to see that I would not be here today if it was not for this decision.  I also felt very strongly that I should be a bridge between Japan and the UK to bring about a much better understanding between our nations.

In the afternoon I was invited by Professor Machiko Ito of Tohoku University of Community Services and Science to give a lecture to about 150 people mainly consisting of students and general public about how to bring about reconciliation by citizens activities and develop mutual understanding.  As part of the lecture I explained about what has been achieved at BCS (formerly Burma Campaign Fellowship Group) to bring about reconciliation between UK and Japan.  This organisation was formed by Mr. Masao Hirakubo, Mr .Guilym Davies and Mr. Hirwen James in 1983 all of whom were former foes. Later in the evening I was invited to a welcoming party attended by Mr. Jun Hino, local historian and curator of the Shonai Machi regional museum, General Sato’s nephew Shigehiko Sato, a banker, Mr. Maki Harada, the town mayor and Mr. Toru Togashi who is Chairman of the Shonai Town Assembly.

At this meeting I explained to the assembled twenty or so guests about how, at all levels of society we should be more grounded in the culture, histories and people of other nations so as to avoid misunderstanding that could lead to chaos and war.  Especially Japanese people should try to express their feelings and views to the outside world more often and with a louder voice because far too often they hesitate to voice their opinions clearly.

Just before this meeting I met Mr Koichiro Wajima (private 2nd class) who is 88 years old and served during the Imphal mission.  He told me and the assembled reporters how he and his platoon encountered a group of British soldiers in the jungle during the night.  The British side started to fire at them, at which point they counterattacked, using their out-date weapons, aiming to knock out their heavy machine gun.  The following morning they discovered British soldiers lying dead as well as several of their own men.  At this point he burst out crying and said “I remember now clearly” After a pause he went on with tears “I regret that I could not bring them back home to their families.”    I held his arm to comfort him and said to him that I was also told by ex-British soldiers that, whichever side wins it does not matter because war just brings misery to everyone involved.  He then repeatedly said “Whichever side wins war is no good, war is no good, never engage in war”.      

Note:  85,600 Japanese soldiers participated in the Imphal Mission, 30,000 died in action, of starvation and illness and 20,000 were injured or succumbed to  malnutrition and illness.  The road between Kohima and Imphal was called “White Bone Road” on which lay the remains of many corpses in military uniform who have never been taken back to their home.

Mrs Akiko Macdonald – Burma Campaign Society Chairman