It is one of several WWII graves maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Kohima, the capital of Nagaland, has probably the only cemetery in the world with a tennis court.
The UK-based Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) has listed five sites with unusual features. These sites are associated with World War I and World War II.
The Kohima War Cemetery is one of 23,000 world war graves across continents maintained by the CWGC, an intergovernmental organization of six member states that ensures that men and women who have died in wars are not never forgotten.
Present-day Nagaland and neighboring Manipur constituted the only theater of World War II in the Indian subcontinent. “In 1944, after heavy fighting in the Burmese jungle, Japanese forces in the region crossed the Chindwin River and entered India. In their path was the Fourteenth Army, made up of forces from across the Commonwealth,” the CWGC on its website.
“This invasion was based on two key points, (the capital of Manipur) Imphal and Kohima. Defeating the Fourteenth Army here meant the Japanese could strike further into India,” he said.
Kohima was of key strategic importance, at the highest point of the pass through the jungle mountains to Dimapur, now the commercial center of Nagaland adjoining Assam. The fall of Dimapur would have meant leaving the Allied defenders of Imphal at the mercy of Japanese soldiers fighting alongside Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army.
“On April 3, a Japanese force of 15,000 men attacked Kohima and its garrison of 2,500 men. The Kohima Ridges led to two weeks of tough and bloody fighting as the defense forces were pushed back to the former home of the British Deputy Commissioner,” the CWGC said.
The lawn of this house had a tennis court where the British officers played for entertainment.
“The surviving defenders, camped around the garden tennis court, prepared for their final fight. As the Japanese forces prepared to attack, they were in turn attacked by the leading tanks of a relief force, saving the garrison and repelling the attackers,” the CWGC said.
Despite this setback, the Japanese force continued to fight for Kohima before finally being forced to withdraw in May. Those who had fallen in defense of Kohima were buried on the battlefield, which later became a permanent CWGC cemetery, along with other burials in surrounding areas,” he added.
Designer Colin St. Clair Oakes incorporated the tennis court into the design of the cemetery.
Other unusual sites listed by the CWGC include the World War I “crater cemeteries” – Zivy Crater and Litchfield Crater – in the Pas de Calais region of France. The craters were caused by mine explosions.
Another listed site is the Nicosia Cemetery (Waynes Keep) or the “no man’s land cemetery” in Cyprus, requiring the presence of armed guards. Indeed, the cemetery is on the border of a piece of land disputed between the southern and northern parts of the island since the 1970s.