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-two. Tamenglong
caption: Tamenglong camp; failure due to bungling
medium: books
person: ThongkimArcherTibbettsIson
location: Tamenglong
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
text: Tamenglong had just been strafed in error by the R.A.F. and we had been warned to duck if we saw fighters, in case (226) the misunderstanding had not been resolved. None appeared. Thongkim, one of our leading Kuki scouts - the North Cachar Kukis, were loyal to a man and did sterling service - met us at the Kabui village with a note from the S.D.O. Tramping on, we came to the little outpost.
text: It hadn't changed. The fort was there, and so were the pines, the streams, the knolls and the perched bungalows. The R.A.F. had shot the red tin roofs as full of holes as pepper-castors; that was all. Even a few zinnias survived in the grass and weeds round the now-ruined summerhouse where we had sat and looked out towards Hangrum, so very remote then. The S.D.O. of that day had told us about the attack and I'd wondered, looking at the saddle and the looming bulk of Hemeolowa, whether I'd ever have the luck to set foot in a place like that.
text: We settled down in the rest-house and waited for Archer. The clouds thickened; grey masses boiled over us, driving in lower and more and more steadily from the south-west. And still he didn't come.
text: The S.D.O., we found, had been left there alone since the invasion started. He had done amazingly well with few resources, no orders and no support. He had his own intelligence screen a full three days' march away, and news from it reached him by relay-runner in less than twenty-four hours. In the middle of April, when the Japs were nearest, the Kuki Subedar in charge of the Assam Rifles in the fort had been detected in communication with the enemy. He claimed he was trying to tempt them into an ambush, but his message was ambiguous, to say the least, and, with the Kuki record what it currently was even Jampi village, west of the Barak, were helping the Japs - it was no time for chances. The S.D.O. arrested him and sent him down for court-martial.
text: Then as if that weren't enough, there was the matter of Sharp. Sharp, a young Indian Civil Service officer, had served in Imphal and knew the district well. He had been hastily taken into the Army and sent out to organize an intelligence (227) screen in the gap between Watch and Ward and the Imphal-Kohima road. He never reached Tamenglong. The fifty Japs whom we had been expecting turned south along the hills when only a march or so in. Cutting their way through forest, they came out where they were least expected, at Haochong on the Imphal-Tamenglong track, blocking it and turning back the bulk of the Pioneers - so many extra mouths to feed in the box at Imphal. They reached the Haochong rest-house just ahead of Sharp. It was almost certain now that they had captured and killed him. Search continued in the retaken Haochong, but they hadn't yet found his body.
text: At the end of a week the Mahratta patrol came back. Archer's Subedar, an old friend, came to us almost in tears because they had had no fighting. They rested a day, and went. Still there was no sign of Archer and his company.
text: Then things began to go wrong. Something had happened to the arrangements with Imphal. " V " Force there had been told about our move, but somebody, somewhere, had failed to pass it on - we never found out for certain what happened. Signals flew. And, though we watched the Laisong road like Sister Anne, there wasn't a sign of Archer.
text: Every day reports of Jap foraging parties came in. There were tales of dumps left unguarded, of mule-convoys laden with rice and escorted by two or three men. We traced their routes on the map, three or four days from us, on their journeys through the villages to levy food. We couldn't get at them. We sat and chafed in the small rest-house. The holes in the roofs leaked; the pine-branches scuffed on the tin; and out between the trees we could see the hills where the Japs were. A mild dysentery broke out, attacking all of us except Ison. Bill Tibbetts, for some reason, had it badly. He was almost incapacitated for the first few days of June.
text: Then we received a signal that two hundred Japs and a field-gun were approaching Tamenglong and that we must retire at once.
text: (228) Had it really been so, I don't think we should have minded. But we knew for certain it was a false report, and more than that, nonsense. The heart was out of us. We were tired and sick of all the bungle there'd been. Albright had done so much, had fixed it all, had been to enormous pains to make it all sure; and someone else at a stroke had wrecked the lot. We packed up and turned back. As we had thought, the repaired bridge was too low. The day before we marched the first flood of the year climbed over it. We took the other road, by the south and Joute ferry.