The Battle of Kohima and the fight for the Far East

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1944 marked the heroic defence of Kohima by the 4th Battalion The Queen’s Own Royal West Kent Regiment. The Battalion held out for fifteen days against a complete Japanese division, thereby buying enough time for two British divisions, which included the 1st Queen’s, to arrive and prevent the invasion of India. This was the turning point against the Japanese in Burma, for thereafter they were never able to mount an effective offensive. It was at Kohima that Lance Corporal Harman of The Royal West Kents won the VC by first killing a Japanese machine gun crew and capturing the gun singlehanded, then rushing another post alone and killing all five Japanese in it. He was then killed by a burst of enemy machine gun fire. His most gallant action is commemorated on ‘Kohima Day’ (9th April) each year in all the Corporals’ Messes within the Princess of Wales’s Royal Regiment, where a corporal is selected as ‘Kohima Corporal’.

The 2nd Queen’s were serving with the Chindits at this time and gained ‘Chindits’ as a unique battle honour, based on the Force rather than on a specific location or action. The 2nd Buffs had fought through to Mandalay and the 9th Royal Sussex fought in Burma alongside the Americans and Chinese under the command of General ‘Vinegar Joe’ Stilwell. The Regiment’s forebears were, therefore, contributing to all fronts as the end of The Second World War approached in 1945. The allied push continued across North-West Europe and North up Italy, whilst the war in the Far East went on until the dropping of the atom bombs on Japan. The Hampshire Regiment was awarded the distinction of ‘Royal’ status by King George VI in 1946 to mark its distinguished service during the war.