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A Visit to India 23 Oct to 13 Nov 2006 by Julian & Sally Pilcher.

(Edited for Visits to Burma Campaign sites)

Trip organised by Andrew (“Bee”) Boyden. Tigerfish Travel. bee@tigerfish.co.uk.


Website www.tigerfish.co.uk. Tel (India) 0091 986851 0279. UK 0044 (0)20 7385
2890.

Wed 25th Oct 2006


Joined for dinner in Shillong by Lt Col Martin Khongmen, Regimental Secretary,
Assam Regt bringing a copy of Gen Sushil Pillai’s book “Asom Vikram” – History of
the Assam Regt 1947-2002.
Mon 30 Oct. Digboi/Phaneng Village/Ledo Airstrip

Drove via Ledo airstrip (base for American pilots flying over “the hump” to supply
the Allied troops).
American comment on father’s road (extracted from his book)

Joined the Stillwell/Ledo Road built for Gen Stillwell from India through the top end
of Burma and to Kunming in China (1736 kms) over 2 years with fighting all the way.
On 11th Feb 1945 Allied Forces driving down the Stillwell Rd entered Kunming
ending 3 years of Japanese blockade of China.

Cross into Arunachal State at Jairampur checkpoint gate. (Ledo Road)


Visit virtually abandoned Chinese War Cemetery. (Chinese wont do anything towards
maintaining it because they were mostly soldiers fighting in Gen Chiang Kai-sheks
army)

Down the Stillwell/Ledo Road plus “Big Bee”

Had hoped to go to the Pangsau pass right on the border but there was some problem
and this was cancelled at the last minute. I think it was impassable. Bee tried it a week
later and had to be pulled out by the Army.

We stayed the night in Lampong via a muddy track.


A family kindly moved along in their hut and let us use their “room” where we
pitched our bedrolls plus mosquito nets. The roosters started to crow under the hut at
2.30am but someone shut them up pretty quickly.
Our bedrolls gave us a relatively comfortable night

The setting was very beautiful and it was a privilege to be there. We were the first
Europeans they had seen. They put on a dance for us by a fire in the evening and sang
a song (apparently) about the white man having chased out the Japs and now the white
man has returned!
.

Our host family came to bid us good bye next day as we set off for Namdapha.

Mon 6th Nov. Thengal Manor to Kohima (Nagaland)


Long Drive via Dimapur where the Burma road starts (built by my father with an
82000 labour force which he raised off the tea plantations)
into Nagaland and up the Manipur Road. This route is well described in his book
“Navvies to the Fourteenth Army” and the scenery appears unchanged. Nichuguard
(at milestone 9) is the entry gate to Nagaland (see photo) where “…the road entered
the gorge which was about four miles long and can best be described as a fisherman’s
paradise and a motorists nightmare………..on the left the rock rose straight up to
anything up to 500 feet, on the right it fell sheer away to the river 200 feet below
which flowed through the gorge in a series of rapids and tempting pools.”

Much the same today although the


road is now about 24 feet wide (no doubt due to his efforts over 60 years ago) rather
than the 12 ft to which he refers.
The road rises steadily from about 1700 ft at Nichuguard to 4700 ft at Kohima.
(Milestone 47) twisting thro lovely country and hills. Mixed surface quality and
hillside still slipping in one or two places despite this being the dry season.

Booked into Hotel Japhu at Kohima. Clean, hot water and TV! View across to the new
RC Cathedral.
Tues 7th Nov. Kohima.
Visited Kohima Cemetery (war Graves Commission). (Site of the Deputy
Commissioner’s bungalow). Well kept. Many Regts took enormous losses. You don’t
really register the Indian ones because so many were Hindus and cremated and so
don’t have headstones (see their names on the large memorial and the Assam Regt in
particular). Royal West Kent of course, Dorsets, Berkshire, RWF, DLI. Lancashire
Fusiliers, Royal Artillery, Scottish Regts, etc etc etc.
One Carabinier war grave – 2/Lt R H Harris. 11 June 1944.

Visited the new RC Cathedral and the Japanese Memorial outside it.
Wed 8th Nov 2006
Kohima to Imphal (State of Manipur). 90 miles. Took 6½ hrs (due to its poor
condition) along my father’s road. Bully, our Guide (native of Arunachal), drove the
whole way.
This is National Highway No 39 (part of the road built by my father for the
evacuation of Burma and for the 14th Army in 1942).

The road condition is poor, varying from tarmac, to potholed tarmac, to unsurfaced, to
slipping hillside.
Much as described in 1942 in my father’s book “Navvies to the Fourteenth Army”.
Much of it along beautiful and mountainous terrain. Valleys & Rivers. Rising from
4700 ft at Kohima
MAO

to 5700 ft at Mao
and dropping down to the Imphal Plain via Maram, Karong, Kangpoki and
Kanglatombi.
Some gorgeous views. Military (Manipur & Assam Rifles) and Police much in
evidence due to banditry/civil unrest. Lorries travelling in convoy for safety. No
driving at night. We had no problems.

We were booked into Hotel Nirmala in Imphal but didn’t like it much. The ITDC
Imphal looked better and in a quiet location but was full and was reputed to be not as
“good” as its exterior implied.

Ended up at the Anand Continental “The best hotel in town”. Extra for an air
conditioned room – but it doesn’t work A few cockroaches but relatively clean and we
didn’t need our own bedrolls. Frequent power cuts. Hot water only in the early
morning, Access direct from a busy “street”. Surprisingly good restaurant.

Th. Dorendra Singh “Doren” (local business man, friend of Bee’s and expert mahseer
fisherman) came to see us. We discussed Numshigum and he said he would make
enquiries.

Met Bully’s young friend, Basanta, (on leave, visiting his family in Imphal. Hopes
soon to join Indian 61st Cavalry, keen polo player, currently at Mancotta) said he too
would enquire about Numshigum, and in particular of his uncle, Professor Konsam
Ibo Singh of Dept of Political Science, Manipur University.
Thurs 9th Nov. Imphal. Bully + his friend Bosanta drove us south to the Loktak
Lake. Large body of water dotted with islands and home to fishermen who live on
large rafts made of reeds. Water often encircled by banks for fish retention therein.
Main vantage point is currently HQ of contingent of Assam Rifles on counter
insurgency. They gave us a “guide”. Took some photos (but not of them).

Went to the Indian National Army Museum at Moirang and learnt a bit about their
collaboration with the Japanese. Would the Japs have given them their freedom any
sooner (or at all) than the British did exactly 2 years to the day after the Japs
surrendered on 15th Aug 1945? I wonder.
Visited Kangla Fort/Compound (237 acres approx)

and Slim’s HQ and House. What a sorry state it all is in now. Took photos for Bee’s
friend Mark, grandson of Slim.
Friday 10th Nov. Imphal/ Numshigum (refer to Regimental History of the 3rd
Carabiniers by Lt Col L B Oatts DSO, pages 251 to 267)
Bully + Basanta drove us to collect Bosanta’s uncle Prof Singh. He could find no
knowledge of a place called Numshigum. There is however a mountain called Makou,
which fits the description and has a history of a fierce battle. Security around there is a
bit difficult.
NB Archie Weir = Sarah Winnington-Ingrams father.
After much local enquiry we came to a track in the plain through the rice fields and
were told that Makou was the third mountain. On approaching this we came upon an
elderly man walking along the track. He confirmed that he lived nearby and that they
all knew there had been a big battle on the mountain. There were still bits of guns and
tanks and things up there. The village story is that the Japanese were on the mountain.
Aeroplanes attacked them with machine guns and bombs. Artillery fired on them.
Indian soldiers and British cavalry “on horses” went up the mountain and killed the
Japanese. No doubt legend handed down by word of mouth could not grasp the
conversion to tanks of a Cavalry Regt. Some of our troopers may have had the same
problem!
Prof Singh (who spoke the local dialect) asked him if the name “Numshigum” meant
anything to him. He replied “Oh yes, it is the name of a ravine up the mountain”
At this point two soldiers from the Manipur Rifles appeared and (friendly and polite)
enquired as to our doings but said we could go no further due to security problems.
We then drove to Sawombung the RHQ and 123 Brigade HQ as described in the
History at page 264 et seq. where we took another photo of the view of the battle as it
would have been seen by the CO, Col Ralph Younger.
Our good friend Lt Gen Sushil Pillai, PVSM (CO 1st Bn Assam Regt 1970/72 and
Colonel of the Assam Regt – about 14 Bns - 1987/1991) tells me however, that
Nungshigum is the name for the area and that much detail is given in the Ball of Fire
(Google-Battle of Nungshigum Manipur-Burma Star Association web page). The
Assam Regt served with great distinction and bravery in the Burma campaign and
particularly in its breakout from its encirclement at Jessami and reform in Kohima for
that epic holdout with the Royal West Kents.

We then drove to the Imphal War Cemetery. Maintained by the War Graves
Commission.
The Cemetery itself is well kept but many of the headstone plates have become
oxidised and need refurbishment. (See photographs). It might be worth the Regiment
considering writing to the War Graves Commission and pointing this out. I understood
that there is to be an inspection of the Cemetery on 2 Dec 2006.
I signed the Visitors Book and took the liberty of doing this also as representing the
Colonel of the Regiment, Brigadier M S Jameson CBE.
Sally and I photographed all the 39 Carabinier headstones (see list attached) together
with the appropriate entries in the Register (which give more detail as to next of kin
etc). If anyone would like copies of these do please let me know. They are in
digital/emailable form.
There is no formal Regimental Memorial. Sadly there was no Ceremony taking place
to commemorate Remembrance Day (11th November) the next day.

(See separate disc of Carabinier Graves and photos.)

Imphal War Cemetery. Burma Campaign 1944


List of Headstones. 3rd Carabiniers. (photograhed 10th November
2006)

Bacon.PEJ. Tpr.
Bayes. E. Tpr.
Boot. CA. Tpr
Branston. RF. "Peter". SQMS.
Brown. A. Tpr.
Burgess. GW. Tpr.
Burrell. DF. SQMS.
Chaplin. GF. Capt.
Cole. JA. Lt
Courage. Tpr, RA
Doe. DS. Sgt.
FitzHerbert. CTV. Capt.
Gallagher.J. Tpr
Geary. TO. Tpr.
Green. ST.Tpr
Henderson. Tpr. WJB
Hopkins. EW. Tpr
Hubbard. AE. Cpl.
Johnston. W. L/Cpl.
Litchfield. AC. Cpl
Lubbock. CA. Tpr.
Ludas. M. Sgt.
Mann. HCW. Tpr.
Martin. JM. Tpr.
Mason. H. Tpr
Mountney. HAJ. Tpr
Mulvey. J. Tpr
Neale. HN. Lt.
Pollard. GJ. Cpl.
Rimmer. FW. Tpr.
Sanford. EA. Major.
Sterlini. L. Tpr
Thwaites. DR. Tpr
Tovey. EJ. Tpr.
Treves.HF. Sgt.
Vasey. J. Tpr.
Vaughan. A. Tpr.
Wass.EW. Tpr
Waud. LH. Tpr.

Kohima War Cemetery. Burma Campaign 1944


Carabinier Headstone (photographed 7th November 2006)

Harris 2/Lt. RH
In the evening we were nobly fed and entertained by Doren Singh at his house in
Imphal, where we met his wife, mother, two sons, daughter in law, grandson and
granddaughter.

He showed us (and gave us a copy of) his marvellous DVD

on Mahseer fishing and also on the Primates of India, both of which had been shown
on India TV.
Julian Pilcher