The Kohima Epitaph is dedicated to the memory of the 10,000 Allied soldiers who died fighting the Battle of Kohima in the summer of 1944. It is built & maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission & is among the best in the world. Located on the slopes of Garrison Hill the cemetery overlooks the hustle & bustle of a crowded town & is both a prominent landmark & tourist destination. There are row upon row of neatly laid out graves in a landscape of pine trees, grassy slopes, butterflies & flowers. Except for Sunday it remains open everyday from 8am – 5pm.
I am at the gates on a rain drenched day patiently waiting for the cemetery to open.The caretaker arrives like clockwork & soon I have the place entirely to myself – for a couple of hours at least. Like most cemeteries it exudes an air of quiet peace & repose. The Pines stand tall & give off a scent with the wafting of the breeze. Lone sentinels. With the rain & mist rolling in from the surrounding hills it is beautiful beyond compare.
It takes almost 3 hours pausing & walking past each & every grave. Wish I had done a head count. There are 1480 graves I am told but cannot be certain. (It is 1420 according to Wikipedia) Except for a single one belonging to a young woman, a nurse, the rest are all soldiers. Each one killed in his prime. Each very young. Very very young. Far too young.
The Roll of Honor proudly proclaims the regiment & names of those who were cremated. There are several marked graves in memory of the unknown soldier, both Indian & Foreign.
“A soldier of the Indian Army 1939 – 1945 is honoured here”
“A soldier of 1939 – 1945. Known unto God”
The tombstones convey feelings of pride & simple grief at the loss of a loved one. Most of the inscriptions are personal, some religious, “Rock of Ages. Cleft for me. Let me hide myself in thee”
Others patriotic, inspiring, poetic & stoic.
Dickens is the most quoted with “ greater love hath no man than this – His life for his country “
And the hugely popular “ At the setting of the sun & in the morning. We will remember them”
There is Shakespeare too: “after life’s fitful fever he sleeps well”
Also the deeply poignant “O, for the touch of a vanished hand & the sound of a voice that is still”
But strangest by far surely was: “Ever remembered by his devoted wife VI & relatives. Gods will be done”
(I reread this several times to be sure I had read right. Or was there a hidden message that I had missed?)
My personal favorite however,is: “ In a short time he lived a long time”
Short & crisp. Like a life well lived
Sudha, there is a similar cemetery in Digboi, for Second World War soldiers. Every nov. a representative from Common Wealth Organisation comes to lay a wreath. The function is jointly hosted by tea garden association and 2 div. and like you noticed most of them died very young, far too young.
Thank you. Lives nobly given. The least we can do is ‘Remember’
Great post, thanks!
Thank you.Our gratitude to CWGC for maintaining it so beautifully
Your first photo says it all. Beautiful post.
Thank you.Their sacrifice must never be forgotten
Nice post Sudha Ji. And I am sure that the souls’ are resting in peace….