Jotsoma village pays tribute to WWII veterans
KOHIMA, APRIL 16
COINCIDING with the 70th commemorative year of the historic Battle of Kohima of WW II, between the allied troops led by the British Army, and the Japanese, the villagers of Jotsoma today paid rich tributes to the valiant heroes of the battle by unveiling a monument built in their honour at Shohuza, Jotsoma, followed by a commemorative function held at the Centenary Ground, Jotsoma.
A ten-member British Army delegate and as many relatives of war veterans graced the occasion.
The monument was erected as a tribute to Maj. Gen. John ML Grover (1897-1979), CB MC, his officers and soldiers of the 2nd Division, 33 Corps of the British Army who were instrumental in the outcome of the Battle of Kohima. Maj. Gen. John Grover is believed to have established his divisional headquarters at the site of the monument during the war in April 1944, where he orchestrated strategies to win the Battle of Kohima.
The monument was formally inaugurated by Brigadier GK Bibby, CBE, Commander 15 (North East) Brigade, by saluting and laying a wreath of Remembrance Poppy at the foot of the memorial stone.
Later speaking at the memorial function, Brig. GK Bibby said that he had read a lot about the Battle of Kohima but on this occasion, he is particularly reminded of the words used by Earl Mountbatten when he wrote to his troops after the Battle of Kohima that “Only those who have seen the horrific nature of the country under these conditions will we be able to appreciate the achievements of your soldiers and their soldiers.” Brig. Bibby said that there have been many visits and commemorations to the Battle of Kohima and to the surrounding countryside since the dreadful months of 1944, but 70 years on, it is a particular privilege to fondly remember the vital role and the contribution played by the people and the village of Jotsoma. “It is truly remarkable and a great privilege to be stood here today seventy years on,” he stated.
He acknowledged that Jotsoma played a critical role in defeating the Japanese when the latter was making a good headway in the battle.
“We are all here today to pay our gratitude and the gratitude of the men of the Second Division for the part that was played by the people of Jotsoma in defeating the Japanese at Kohima in 1944,” Brig. Bibby said.
The Commander of the 15 (North East) Brigade also asserted that the monument is a fitting memorial to Maj.Gen. Grover and his men and acknowledged the efforts of villagers for erecting the structure displaying skilled craftsmanship.
The British Army, on the occasion, presented souvenirs from the home of the British 2nd Division in York to the Jotsoma village chairman Golepra Peseyie, the Monument Committee chairman Krurovi Peseyie and WWII veteran Vikeyienü Nagi, who had served as a commander of the Labour Corps under the then Deputy Commissioner of Kohima, Charles Pawsey.
Celia Grover, the daughter in law of Maj. Gen. John ML Grover, who also graced the occasion, said that the late Maj. Gen. Grover was a “very special man” who is remembered fondly by many people. She said that with the special monument erected in his memory, he will now be remembered forever by the people.
Speaking on behalf of the Jotsoma people, Monument Committee chairman Krurovi Peseyie termed the occasion a historic one. He reminded the gathering of the bitter war fought between the nations of Great Britain and the Japanese 70 years ago in all the surrounding places of Jotsoma village during the WWII where many precious lives were lost and invaluable properties were destroyed. He also mentioned how the local people extended their help and support to the British soldiers and noted it was found that some of these soldiers placed on record that the locals had been like their brothers.
He stated that after 70 years, it is also believed that there is an attitude of goodwill towards each other even between the great nations who fought bitterly against one another during the great World War.
The monument signifies the hard earned victory of Maj. Gen. Grover and his men, Peseyie stated, adding, “We wish the monument to be a symbol of relationship, friendship and goodwill towards each other”.
According to the Monument Committee, the entire structure of the monument at Shozuza stands 24 feet tall, measuring 32 feet in diameter, while the monument stone measures 15 and ½ feet tall. The monument was erected to reminisce the supreme sacrifice of the general and his valiant men, and the past deeds of benevolence and friendship between the British troops and the people of Jotsoma during WWII and also to keep those stories alive.
Hundreds of Jotsoma villagers including young and old, well wishers and several dignitaries of the state attended the commemorative programme.
Following the programme, the visiting British team went up to Puliebadze peak, which is also considered a strategic point of the Battle of Kohima. Celia Grover, defying her 75 years of age, also scaled the steep peak spiritedly. She said that she was doing so for the second time, the first being in 2013 during her first visit to Kohima.
The team will be visiting the Kohima War Cemetery on Thursday then proceed to Sechü (Zubza).