BRAVE veterans of a brutal Second World War Two battle between British and Japanese forces remembered their fallen comrades during a 70th anniversary service in York.
Dean’s Park, near York Minster, was the fitting location for the surviving veterans, their families, serving members of the armed forces and Councillor Ian Gillies, the Lord Mayor of York, as they gathered to pay tribute to the sacrifices made by the men during the Battle of Kohima, a turning point in the war.
The bloody clash was labelled as “probably one of the greatest battles in history” by Lord Mountbatten, the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia, as troops fought from April 4 to June 22, 1944, to halt the advance of Japanese forces as they looked to capture India.
The fierce hand-to-hand fighting, heavy rain and treacherous terrain saw nearly 4,000 British and Indian troops pay the ultimate sacrifice as they defended the crucial Indian locality.
Hundreds of people attended the service led by The Very Reverend Vivienne Faull Dean of York, with music provided by The Band of the Royal Corps of Signals.
Signaller Bill Stewart, 93, of Evelyn Crescent, York, attended the service with his wife, children and grandchildren.
He said: “It’s very emotional but today has been good.
“It’s the 70th anniversary, so you do start thinking about what happened, but you try to put it at the back of your mind because it brings a tear to your eye.
“The monsoons will stay with me. I was wet through for a week at a time and everything was soaked.
“We fought through them, but you never knew when they were going to stop.
“There was nowhere to sleep, so I slept under a bush.”
The service comes back to the city every year after the British 2nd Division was based in York at Imphal Barracks, on Fulford Road, until 2000.
Veterans laid wreaths at the Kohima Memorial inside the gardens, sang hymns, and observed a minute’s silence during the service.
Fusilier Richard Day, 68, from Borehamwood, served with the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.
He said: “I wanted to come here on behalf of the chaps we left behind.
“I was just an ordinary squaddy and did what I had to do.
“Being in a position where you were called up and sent out, you had to do what you did otherwise you wouldn’t come home.”
Dean Faull said: “As one of the Japanese soldiers commented ‘the Japanese and the British troops were both courageous, but the British troops were courageous for longer."