Post Mortem

The Pioneers (WW-I Naga Labour Corps 1917-1918)

By Nagaland Post | Publish Date: 11/24/2018 11:50:41 AM IST

Great Britain interlaced in the consortium of the allies was necessitated to rally every man power and resources in this war, the acute insufficiency of labour force in western front of France impels them to draft another 50,000 strong labour troops from the Indian sub continent, incidentally during this period Nagas were wadding through the annexation by Great Britain, so 2000 Nagas comprising of 1000 Semas, 400 Lothas, 200 Aos, 200 Rengmas, 200 Changs and other trans frontier tribes were recruited and designated as 21st Naga Labour Corps. The deputy commissioner, Mr. H.C Barnes went in command with a number of clerks and Dobashis. They arrived in France in two main group 688 men on 21st June and 992 men on 22nd July 1917. It is believed that more than 400 men were perhaps not found fit to sail to France. Naga’s during this era were still at nascent stage, they were not much familiarized with modern weapons rather they were more convenient with conventional weapons like spear, daos (machetes), stake trapping, shields made of bamboo and animal hides etc. they worked in munitions, transport, railway lines, stevedores and recovery, Nagas gave their unfeigned dedication in every aspect, Nagas were also effectively utilized for inciting fears into the Germans mind in the first sequence.

The criterions for enlisting in the labour corps are:

1. They shall not be enlisted as combatants but nevertheless they must be disciplined like a soldier and must be agile fit and strong.

2. One leader shall be chosen among the Nagas, this leader must be a person who could command and control over them and that he shall be assisted by British veterans and host of interpreters. 

Terms and condition are:

1. Their emoluments will be 15 rupees per month within the Indian territory and rations will be provided free.

2. After they ventured beyond Indian territory their monthly emoluments will be enhanced to rupees 20 per month.

3. An extra wage equivalent to one month rupees 20 will be given as soon as they embarked on a ship.

4. After the completion of 6 months of the work one month extra wage will be added.

5. Remission of house tax rupees 2(two) for the recruited families.

6. They shall not be enlisted as an army but shall be used only during the war period.

7. If they were injured or maimed during the war they shall be compensated half of what the soldiers are entitled in accordance to Indian army regulation volume 1 paragraph 1060.

8. If they were killed or died during the war their family or clan shall be compensated rupees 300 as one time ex-gratia.

9. Those who could stay and serve till the end of the war shall only be enlisted.

As agreed upon earlier Kuhoi Zhimomi a.k.a. Ko Ho Sema Naga son of a legendary Sumi warrior and chief Sukhai Zhimomi and mother Shevutsusho Murumi was chosen to command over the Naga Labour Corps and Hekiqhe Awomi of Surumi village as his assistant, Kuhoi took his sons along with him. The Nagas were each directed to carry a set of traditional attires along with spears and daos (traditional machetes), embellished in attires and paraphernalia of conventional gears they were divided into groups and made to swing their  daos and spears into the air and vent out their typical Naga war cry while thumping their feet on the ground, meanwhile the Britishers were keenly taking every pictures of this splendor and flamboyant movements and later on these pictures were circulated into the Germans territory and made a propaganda that the Britishers have bought an extraordinary race of people known as the Nagas from the north eastern side of Indian sub-continent to fight against the Germans when they hurl their spears against the enemy it will follow the trajectory line and directly kill the enemy nothing could obscure the enemy from their weapon it penetrates anything and will ultimately retrieve on its own, this propaganda generated fears into the Germans mind that they halted their accede for about a week.

On April 21st 1917 embattled with valour  and enthusiasm they marched out of Naga hills resonating gloriously to Marseilles defying all odds not aware of perilous trails and tribulation awaiting them nor foresee that most of them would eventually be devoured by the cruelty of death in this advent including my formidable Great Great grandfather Kuhoi Zhimomi the chief of Naga Labour Corps, his mortal remains were buried in France and only his belongings were brought back by his sons, engraved on his epitaph is Kuhoi Sema Naga which is rendered as Ko Ho Senuna Nagi Mate, it reads that “he took 24 heads and was present at the death of 130 enemies in battle’’ died on 25th December 1917 buried in Mazargues cemetery Marsielles plot no- 1, row no- 16, grave no-3. He exhibits the distinct epitome of a true and valiant Naga leader which also succinctly portrayed that Nagas contribution to the allies in France cannot be submerged to manual works alone.

Here are some of the names of the Naga Labour Corps of WW-I who died and were buried at several parts of the cemeteries in France. They are the embedded symbols of our immense role in this Great War.

1. Mazarques War Cemetery Extension Marsellies France

1. Ko Ho Sema Naga Chief/Mate.878 35th Indian Labour Corps died on 25th Dec 1917.

(Also written as Ko Ho Senuna Nagi, Mate. 35th (Naga) Labour Coy, 25th Dec 1917. It is recorded on his headstone that he took 24 heads and was present at the death of 130 enemies in the Battle) *Real name Kuhoi Sema Naga, son of Sukhai Zhimomi, chief of Sukhai Village.

2. Khunushu labr.504 21st Naga Labour Coy 504 15th July 1917.

3. Keilho labr.899 died on 7th July 1917.

4. Luchezu labr.1263 Indian Labour Corps died on 5th July 1917.

5. Lhozuse labr.680 Indian Labour Corps died on 11th July 1917.

6. Khuchezu labr.988 Indian Labour Corps died on 14th Feb 1918.

2. St. Server Cemetery Rouen France

1. Luvutha labr.1631 21st/38th Naga Coy Indian Labour Corps died on 15th Feb 1918.

2. Lhozuvi labr.968 35th Naga Coy, Indian Labour Corps died on 4th Jan 1918.

3. Chong Shen Tonglu labr.1811 37th Naga Coy Indian Labour Corps died on 13th July 1918.

3. Ayette Indian Cemetery France 

1. Shekhu labr.596 38th Naga Labour Coy, Indian Labour Corps 18th Jan 1918.

2. Paruwati labr.2257 37th Naga Labour Coy. Indian Labour Corps died on 15th Dec 1917.

4. Neuve-Chapelle Memorial France

1 Khuzulho labr.35th Naga Coy 973 died on 31st Dec 1917.

3. Kallu labr.403 35th Naga Coy attd. 71st (united Province) ILC died on 19th Dec 1917.

5. Lachhi labr.893 35th Naga Coy Indian Labour Corps died on 29th Dec 1917.

6. Shena labr.1188 Indian Labour Corps died on 25th May 1917.

7. Yezevi labr.1242 Indian Labour Corps died on 1st Jan 1918.

5. La Chapelette British and Indian Cemetery Peronne France

1. Lhovekhe labr.1683 35th Naga Indian Labour Coy ILC died on 7th Dec 1917 son of Kehisi of Yozami Naga Hills Assam. 

2. Zukhehe labr.972 35th Naga Indian Labour Corps died on 3th Feb 1918 next kin Yikeshe of Kiyekhu Naga Hills Assam.

3. Khukhei labr.1855 38th ILC died on 23th Jan 1918 next kin Kuchelho Lizumi Naga Hills Assam.

4. Yosukhe labr.814 38th Naga ILC died on 30th Jan 1918 next kin Hokhoyi of Satakha Naga Hills Assam.

5. Khukhetha labr.974 35th Naga ILC died on 5th Dec 1918 next kin Zevni, Kingokhu Lakhi, Naga Hills Assam. 

6. Yekhul labr.1741 35th Naga ILC died on 24th Dec 1917 next kin Haivikhe of Litsimi Naga Hills Assam

7. Raliwir labr.1060 35th Naga ILC died on 28th Jan 1918 next kin Hatowa Lotso Naga Hills Assam.

8. Yenko Alika labr.1479 37th Naga ILC died on 7th Feb 1918 next kin Chakchimung of Yamrup Naga Hills Assam.

9. Khoir Kahmo labr.1079 36th Naga ILC died on 16th Nov 1917 next kin Phuntsurva of Mailong Naga Hills Assam.

10. Zavaha labr. 690 Indian Labour corps died on 24-6-1917

11. Zuren Thang larb.1786 36th (Naga) ILC died on 15th Jan 1918 next kin Monsathang of Patin Naga Hills Assam.

(To be concluded)

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