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A permanent memorial to the courage of the men from the 2nd Dorsets, who lost 330 casualties during the Battle of Kohima, has been unveiled at a service outside County Hall in Dorchester.
The unveiling took place on the 71st anniversary of the climax of the battle – fought between April and June 1944 in the remote Naga Hills in India. It was a turning point in the Second World War, which halted the Japanese advance and turned defeat into victory. The Dorsets’ part in that was crucial.
The Battle of Kohima may not be familiar to everyone, but the Kohima Epitaph – inscribed on the memorial at the site of the battle – is one all of us remember:
When you go home, tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow, we gave our today.
At the Service of Commemoration the Exhortation was read by Major General Tony Jeapes CB OBE MC, former Dorset, whose wife Jenny is the daughter of Lieutenant Colonel Geoffrey White DSO, who was Second in Command of the Battalion at Kohima.
He said: “It was one of the major battles of the Second World War although many people don’t know about it. While the war in Europe was being finished, this war was being continued, ferociously. This was a magnificent battle won largely by the grit of the Dorsets. Kohima was the furthest into the West that the Japanese ever got, after that it was withdrawal and defeat. It was the turning point of the war in the Far East and the Dorsets made it possible. Certainly it deserves to be remembered.”
Mrs Jeapes said her father would have been absolutely delighted about the new stone in Dorchester: “He was a military historian and had a lot to do with restarting the Keep Military Museum; he ran it for a couple of years. It was important to him that military history was remembered. I hope Dorset people will visit the new Kohima Memorial stone as well as the Keep Military Museum.”
A book about the Dorsets’ story in World War Two, including the role they played in the Battle of Kohima, is available from the Keep Military Museum. It is entitled “They Couldn’t Have Done Better” and is by Christopher Jary.
Claire: 13th May 2015 11:00:00