State

Descendants of Naga WW-II veterans awarded

Descendants of Naga WW-II veterans awarded
Temjen Toy and Bob Cook (6th from R) with officials and descendants of the awardees of gallantry award in Kohima on Thursday (NP).
Correspondent KOHIMA, APR 18 (NPN) | Publish Date: 4/18/2019 12:05:06 PM IST

As part of the yearlong celebration to commemorate 75th anniversary of the battle of Kohima, gallantry award were restored to descendants of Naga veterans at an event held at Hotel Vivor here on Thursday. 

The event was organised by Kohima Education Trust (KET) and Kohima Educational Society (KES).

Speaking on the occasion as a guest of honour, chief secretary Temjen Toy remarked that the battle that was fought in “our land” had changed the history of the Nagas as well as the world forever. 

He said the State government had decided to observe the 75th anniversary of the battle by organising various yearlong activities to remember those who took part and lost lives, besides acting as a platform for reconciliation and look for a better future.

Welcoming the descendants of soldiers who had come from the UK, Toy also paid rich tributes to those who had lost their lives and those involved in the fierce battle and suffered immensely. 

He lauded Kohima Educational Trust and Kohima Educational Society for organising the programme in honour of Naga war veterans in a befitting manner. Addressing the gathering as guest of honour, Curator of Kohima Museum at York (UK), Bob Cook said he was pleased and honoured to be part of the commemoration of 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima. 

Bob Cook  said personnel of Assam and Naga regiments and Naga people had provided key support to British troops and had fought very well together. He said the medal presentation was to ensure that they were not forgotten but remembered. 

He said they fought against the Japanese soldiers, who were forced to retreat to Burma (now Myanmar). In his address, KES president Charles Chasie said the task of identifying Naga gallantry award winners and recovery of documents and medals had been an arduous task that began without any proper planning. 

He said, during the observation of the 70th anniversary of the battle of Kohima in 2014, the seed was planted to record the experience of Naga veterans who were still alive. He added that research for a book and documentary film on the Naga experience of the World War-II began in the last part of 2015.

As the contribution of Nagas to the war was an important part of the book, Chasie said research in this area followed, particularly by co-author Major Harry Fecitt, who, as a retired military man as well as writer, knew where to look for them. 

He informed the gathering that 69 Naga soldiers who had won gallantry awards for their bravery during the battle were finally identified and hoped to identify more in the future. He shared the difficulties faced in identifying their names from official records.

He said KET and KES were very keen to return these medals to the descendants of Naga war veterans as these were part of their family history. He said the gallantry awards won by the Naga veterans were Order of the British Empire (OBE), Member of the British Empire (MBE), British Empire Medal (BEM), Imperial Service Medal, Military Cross, Military Medal, Mention in Despatch, Indian Distinguished Services Medal and India Police Medal.

KES chairman Dr. Phyobemo Ngully, who chaired the programme, remarked that while the British veterans remember their Naga counterparts with gratitude and honouring them with whatever way they could, “we have failed to remember and recognise them”. He said many of them were not with “us anymore but their legends live on to inspire and shape our society”. He opined that they deserve “our” utmost recognition for the services rendered by them to “our people” during those difficult times.

The guests of honour gave descendants of four soldiers with OBE and MBE, 12 with BEM, three with Military Cross, 11 with Military Medal, two with Mention in Despatches with Certificate – A, five with Mention in Despatches with Certificate – B, five with Mention in Despatches without certificates and Neibotha Mekro with Indian Distinguished Services Medal with only certificate.

Descendants of the Naga war veterans and descendants of British soldiers also addressed the gathering. 

The programme was attended by 20 descendants of British and Naga veterans, besides well-wishers and others. 

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