Friday 8 October 2010

Kohima - Last Battle Of Empire

Jetting across France and taking even longer to get from Ipswich to Bristol by train over the last couple of weeks gave me an opportunity to get some serious reading in and I took the opportunity to read Fergal Keane's Road of Bones: The Siege of Kohima 1944.

Kohima was the high water mark of the Japanese attempts to invade India and Keane's excellent book not only covers the bloody siege fought in April 1944 by British, Burmese, Indian and Nepalese troops out numbered 10 to 1 by the Japanese, but also the build up to the Japanese attack, as well as painting the pre-War situation in the Naga Hills and the aftermath as the Empire forces waged a hard fought campaign to clear the Japanese from the area and relieve Imphal.

This wasn't a battle (or campaign) I was particularly familiar with and I was impressed with the way Keane brought it to life, sometimes quite viscerally and on other occasions incredibly movingly (even from the Japanese perspective). Keane has gone to great lengths to not only include the British story but also the Indian and Japanese ones, interviewing veterans and relatives from all sides. The tenacity exhibited by troops from both sides is incredible and it almost beggars belief that human beings could continue to function in the circumstances described.

Like most wargamers reading a battle history, the "gaming juices" were piqued. In many ways Kohima and the 1944 Burma campaign resemble the Western Front in 1918, albeit in largely inhospitable terrain. You could, of course, play skirmishes in 28mm, but my mind went more towards 6 or 10mm which would probably give you a better feel for the war using a WW1 set of rules as a basis to work on.

Even if Burma or WW2 isn't "your thing" I really recommend picking Road of Bones up (or sticking it on the Christmas Present list) as it is a powerful book of a story that needs telling that will stick in the memory for a long time. As the memorial at Kohima states:

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say
For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today.

1 comment:

  1. Equally not a campaign or theatre of war I'm familiar with.... Which seems all the more reason to get a copy of this book and find out about it.