The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book - 'Naga Path', by Ursula Graham Bower, published John Murray 1950

caption: Chapter thirty. Looters
caption: evacuation
medium: books
location: Tamenglong
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: (213) We didn't have leisure for long to worry only about the Japs. In a few days they were merely incidental.
text: Bodies of Bengali and Madrassi Pioneers, evacuated from Imphal before the siege began, were being marched out across Tamenglong subdivision under their officers. The first company through lost more than forty men by desertion on the trip, though losses from later companies were much less. We spent most of the next fortnight in rounding the forty up. All the Pioneer companies were short of food, and we hadn't a grain to spare. We could only send them through to the railway as fast as we could. But no one, it seemed, though their coming was planned in advance and ample warning given, had thought to send up food for them to Mahur; so they camped there, hungry, in the market sheds.
text: With one batch appeared an R.A.F. man, from a Vultee Vengeance. The aircraft had got into difficulties over the hills and gone into a spin. Seeing a crash imminent, he baled out, and the aircraft disappeared, still spinning, behind a hill. He landed unhurt, ran to the top of the ridge, and saw a fire down below in the valley bottom. To this he went, tearing and fighting his way through the jungle to help the pilot, but when he came to the spot, he found it a jhum-fire, with no sign of any aircraft at all. Then he met some Nagas and asked by signs if they had seen the machine. Oh, yes, they said; it had come spinning down, like this; and then straightened out and gone off whirr ! - like that.
text: He hadn't the faintest idea whether he was east or west of (214) Imphal and which way he ought to walk. The Nagas took charge of him and led him up to the Tamenglong bridle-road, where the Pioneers were coming through, and here he was, walking out, and swearing he'd never do it again if he lived to be a hundred. We heard the sequel later. The Vengeance got safely back to Imphal, and the pilot jumped out, shouting : " Hi, George, that was a near thing, wasn't it ? " - and found there was no George. It was ten days before they heard where he was.
text: Worse than a few Pioneers was soon to come. When the big camps at Kanglatombi and other points along the Imphal road were overrun by the Japs, there was little or no ordered evacuation of their personnel. While some formed bodies marched off in good order, a large number left by ones and twos, with their arms and ammunition, and came trekking westward through the hills in a hungry and broken flood. They were not regular troops, but drivers, mechanics, water-carriers, artisans, men of every kind of auxiliary service, drawn from every creed and part of India, and for the most part newly-recruited and ill-disciplined. With them were handfuls of Naga refugees, mostly pastors and teachers from the mission stations, Indian road-contractors, Gurkha graziers with their wives and children, and stray, half-naked prisoners escaped from Jap hands chiefly men of the Gurkha Parachute Battalion. All these had to be collected, questioned, helped, fed, clothed, doctored, disarmed if necessary, and sent to the rear. In a few days the armed stragglers were a serious problem. Over in Manipur, in the belt between the Barak and Jiri, the situation was already out of control. Though the Nagas started out by giving every assistance, their only rewards were assaults and lootings. Villagers took to the woods, normal life came to a standstill; and, as the tide spread westward and reached us, it became increasingly hard to maintain order - the whole intelligence network was threatened.