January 18, 2022 - 11:19 am

Among CWGC’s 5 Sites With Unusual Features

    The Kohima War Cemetery in Nagaland has figured in the United Kingdom-based Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s (CWGC) five sites with unusual features. These sites are associated with World War I and World War II. The Kohima War Cemetery has a feature that is possibly not shared by any other cemetery in the world: A tennis court. The Kohima War Cemetery is one of 23,000 World War graves across the continents maintained by the CWGC, an intergovernmental organisation of six member-states who ensure the men and women who died in the wars will never be forgotten.

        The Kohima War Cemetery is a memorial dedicated to the soldiers of the 2nd British Division of the Allied Forces who died in World War II at Kohima in April 1944. The soldiers died on the battleground of Garrison Hill in the tennis court area of the Deputy Commissioner’s residence. On April 3, 1944, a Japanese force of 15,000 had attacked Kohima and its 2,500 strong garrison. After two weeks of fighting, the defending forces were pushed back to the former house of the British Deputy Commissioner. The surviving defenders, encamped around the garden tennis court, prepared for their final stand. As the Japanese forces prepared to attack, they were attacked in turn by the lead tanks of a relief force, saving the garrison and pushing the attackers back. Despite this setback the Japanese force continued to fight for Kohima before they were finally forced to withdraw in May the same year. Those who had fallen in the defence 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 manager of the cemetery, said the tennis court is no longer in use but maintained. It still has the turf and the line-markings, he said.

     Among the other unusual sites listed by CWGC are the World War I “crater cemeteries” – Zivy Crater and Litchfield Crater – in the Pas de Calais region in France. The craters were caused by mine explosions. Another site listed is the Nicosia (Waynes Keep) Cemetery or the “cemetery in no man’s land” in Cyprus, requiring the presence of armed guards. This is because the cemetery is on the border of a patch of land disputed between the southern and northern parts of the island since the 1970s.

     The cemetery is entirely maintained by the CWGC. Its officials, who are based in the UK, come and do the inspection from time to time. Each of our cemeteries tells its own story. As you walk through and read the names, dates and regiments on our headstones you can build an understanding of what happened to the men and women commemorated there. But you can also gather clues about the history of the world wars by looking at the physical features of a cemetery.