When You Go Home, Tell Them of Us and Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.

This is the Kohima Epitaph and later this month the first commemoration service of its kind to remember members of the 2nd  Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment, will be held at St Saviour’s Chapel in Norwich Cathedral.

Admiral Lord Mountbatten said: “The battle of Kohima will probably go down as one of the greatest battles in history.”

In March, 1944, the Japanese 15th Army began an advance against India’s north-east frontier.

Eastern Daily Press: Battle of Kohima. The British position just below Aradura Spure, Burma, showing a bunker ridge,

They intended to capture to capture British supply bases on the Imphal Plain and cut the road linking Dimapur and Imphal at Kohima, a gateway into India.

With Imphal in their hands, the Japanese would be able to interrupt air supplies to China and provide a base to conduct air attacks against India.

By early April, they had pushed across the Chin Hills from Burma and surrounded Imphal and Kohima.

Had Dimapur fallen, they would have seized enough supplies to make a menacing attack on India.

At this critical moment Major General John Grover was ordered to bring his 2nd Division from India to the relief of the garrison at Kohima.

The 2nd Royal Norfolks flew from Calcutta to Dimapur in Assam…a brutal and bloody conflict was about to start.

Eastern Daily Press: Members of the Royal Norfolk Regiment pictured in Burma in 1942

For many weeks every officer and man fought non-stop in the battle for Kohima. Progress was difficult, over steep rocky ridges with paths hacked through undergrowth, so thick visibility was barely five yards.

Naga tribesman bravely acted as porters and bearers of the wounded, often on tracks the Japanese had declared impossible and because of the terrain, the battle was fought by many small units of men in close combat.

The Japanese were well dug-in to mutually supporting, hidden dugouts which were designed to prevent the type of attacks the Norfolks were leading.

The advance was maintained by firing machine guns from the hip and throwing grenades into the undergrowth.

This was in fact, as Lord Mountbatten said, The Battle for Burma.

It is difficult to single out men for special mention but the commanding officer, Lt Col Robert Scott, was a giant of a man , a fearsome warrior respected by one and all.

The man credited with saving his life was his bodyguard…David Lowe from North Walsham.

Eastern Daily Press: The Royal Norfolk Regiment memorial photographed in Kohima recently

And it was in the attack on  “Norfolk Bunker” on May 6 that Captain John Randle, single-handed, already wounded and armed with a rifle and bayonet and a grenade, charged a Japanese machine-gun bunker.

Hit time and time again he reached the bunker, silenced the gun with a grenade and, as he died, flung his body across the opening sealing it.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross. “The bravery of this officer could not have been surpassed and by his self-sacrifice he saved the lives of many of his men and enabled not only his own company but the whole battalion, to gain its objective and win a decisive victory over the enemy,” said the official citation

John Randle, six other officers and a reported 79 solders “gave their today” at Kohima and 15 officers and more than 150 men wounded…we will remember them, and all those involved in this savage conflict.

Eastern Daily Press: Kohima hero. Jack Randle’s gallant self-sacrifice saved the lives of many comrades and earned him

The Royal Norfolk and Royal Anglian Regimental Service for the 80th anniversary of The Battle of Kohima, and also The Battle of Almanza on April 27 1707, will take place at St Saviour’s Chapel, Norwich Cathedral, on Sunday April 28 at 9.30am.

The beautiful, informative and important chapel was consecrated in 1932 as a memorial to those in died in the First World War. It now has Rolls of Honour to those who died in both world wars, memorials to those fallen in the Korean war and a bronze plaque for casualties at Kohima.

Eastern Daily Press: St Saviour’s Chapel. Photo: Bill Smith/Norwich Cathedral.

It is a very special part of the cathedral. A  chapel where you can sit in silence and think about those who lost their lives fighting for our freedom.

With thanks to the Royal Norfolk and Royal Anglian Regiment Association and the Royal Norfolk Regimental Museum.

Eastern Daily Press: St Saviour’s Chapel