The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: Kohima and the war
medium: diaries
person: Pawsey/ Charles
location: Kohima
date: 25.8.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: 25 August. Kohima.
text: Today I have been taking stock of the new Kohima which has struggled into life since the war. Pawsey's own house is a hut of corrugated iron, mud and wattle, while the walls of the little 'guest-house', where we are staying, are pitted with bullet-holes and marks of shrapnel. Above the house is an offshoot of the great Manipur Road. On one side it leads to the squalid bazaar, while on the other it doubles back to join the main highway. Rising above its hard and glossy surface is the old site of the Deputy Commissioner's bungalow. It is here that the Kohima battle reached its height and the dead were buried in their rows.
text: As we went round the graves this evening, Pawsey showed me a pear tree, black and blasted from the shelling, the sole survivor from his orchard. His hedge of Japanese bamboos is now the cemetery fence, while the cemented tennis court still shows a few black marking lines among the filled-in craters. High above the graves is the little hill where the final stand took place. In the cemetery stands a great stone to the memory of the dead of the Second Division. It is a memorial that the Nagas understand for they themselves erect stones of this kind. Nagas dragged it for miles through the jungle up mountain paths and refused all payment, just as they refused payment during the war for their help in tending the British wounded.
text: As we scrambled up, Pawsey told me about the battle of June 1944. At the end of the siege about a thousand troops were huddled on this hill in their shallow trenches. All the trees were torn by shells and the whole hilltop was draped in (55) parachutes. While the garrison was encircled the Japs held all the surrounding hills and almost the whole of the little hill itself. It was after thirteen days of agonised suspense that the siege was raised and Pawsey himself was taken down the road. Almost immediately the road was cut again and it was only after a further three days' fighting that the Japs were finally repulsed.
text: The hill itself is crowned with a huge cross to the 4th Battalion of the Queens Own Royal West Kents. Unfortunately the weather is affecting the wood and this is true of many other memorials scattered on the spurs. Cement and wood are cracking and inscriptions are becoming effaced. Pawsey is afraid that in a few more years the jungle will have come in and submerged everything in its tangled green. He is therefore corresponding with the army authorities to see whether these memorials cannot be brought in and put into the main cemetery.
text: Coming down the hillside, I stood and looked at terrace upon terrace of neat white crosses, while all around stretched the huge and shaggy hills. The cemetery is full of English flowers and is tended by the Deputy Commissioner's old gardener who has worked on this hillside for forty years. Nasturtiums hang down the walls between the terraces. Cockscomb, balsam, zinnias, cosmos and red and purple salvia are massed between the lines of crosses, while roses and lilies fringe the paths. With its flowers and setting it is the loveliest cemetery I have ever seen.