Express press service
GUWAHATI: Kohima War Cemetery in Nagaland is one of five Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) sites with unusual features.
The CWGC said the Kohima War Cemetery has a feature that may not be shared by any other cemetery in the world: a tennis court.
“Each of our cemeteries tells its own story. By browsing and reading the names, dates and regiments on our headstones, you can understand what happened to the men and women memorialized there,” the CWGC wrote on its official website.
He added: “But you can also pick up clues to the history of the World Wars by examining the physical features of a cemetery….”
Kohima War Cemetery is a memorial to the soldiers of the British 2nd Division of the Allied Forces who died during World War II at Kohima in April 1944. The soldiers died on the Garrison Hill battlefield in the short of Deputy Commissioner’s Tennis Residence.
On April 3, 1944, a Japanese force of 15,000 had attacked Kohima and its garrison of 2,500 men. After two weeks of fighting, the defense forces were pushed back to the former home of the British Deputy Commissioner.
“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 lead tanks of a relief force, saving the garrison and repelling the attackers,” the CWGC wrote.
Despite this setback, he added, the Japanese force continued to fight for Kohima before finally being forced to withdraw in May of that year.
Those who had fallen in defense of Kohima were buried on the battlefield, which later became a permanent CWGC cemetery. Colin St. Clair Oakes, who designed it, incorporated the tennis court.
Lhouvi Mezhur Sekhose, who is the director of the cemetery, said the tennis court is no longer in use but maintained. It still has the turf and the line marks, he said.
“So many lives were lost around the tennis court that the CWGC doesn’t want people playing tennis there anymore,” said Sekhose, whose family has been associated with running the cemetery for decades.
His grandfather had been associated with the cemetery since its creation in 1946. His father had also been associated with it for many years.
The cemetery is entirely maintained by the CWGC. Its UK-based officials come to inspect from time to time, Sekhose added.
The First World War “crater cemeteries” – Zivy Crater and Litchfield Crater – in the Pas de Calais region of France and the Nicosia Cemetery (Waynes Keep) or “no man’s land cemetery” in Cyprus are among the other unusual sites listed by the CSGC.