SEVENTY-five years ago on this very day, British troops in India celebrated the re-opening of the Burma road at Kohima.

It was a hugely strategic point at the summit of a pass on the main road from Burma into India itself. For almost three months, British and Indian troops, supported by local Naga people, had struggled with the Japanese army for control of the road.

If they had lost, the whole of India would have been opened up to Japanese invasion.

But they didn't lose. The Japanese were ultimately driven back, in what proved to be a major turning point in the war in Asia. Until Kohima, it has been said, the Japanese never suffered a major defeat. After it, they never had a major victory.

For the British and their allies, however, it was a victory that came at huge cost. The battle, which raged from April 4-June 22 1944, is said to have been the fiercest fought by British  and allied forces during the whole of the Second World War. More than 4,000 British and allied troops lost their lives. For the Japanese, the death toll was even higher - up to 7,000 dead, many from starvation and disease.

Fought in appalling monsoon weather, the battle left the area around the Kohima Ridge shattered. "The ...leafless pines, firs and oaks looked like grotesques dancers transfixed," says an article n the BBC's WW2 People's War website. "A dense forest teeming with life had been stripped. Bodies lay... where they fell, one on top of the other... Japanese and Allied soldiers together in death."

Among the soldiers who fought and died at Kohima were members of 2 Infantry Division. Long after the war was over, the division moved its headquarters to Imphal Barracks in York. It brought with it memorabilia from the battle. And eventually, that collection grew into a fully-fledged museum: the Kohima Museum.

Officially registered in 1994, it is now the only museum in the country dedicated exclusively to telling the story of the Battle of Kohima and of the wider Burman campaign, says Bob Cook, the former Royal Signals warrant officer who is now the museum's volunteer curator.

And what a story it is. The museum has a brilliant collection of material - contemporary photographs, medals, military equipment both British and Japanese, flags, letters and official documents. But it is the human stories behind all these that make a visit to the museum so powerful.

Stories such as that of Lance/Serjeant Robert Bell Hannay of 2 Division's 5 Infantry Brigade. His unit had been ordered to lift the siege of Kohima. They began to advance up the road, and encountered a Japanese unit occupying a strongpoint now known as Bunker Hill. Lance Serjeant Hannay was among those who died capturing the position.

His story didn't end there, however. Back at home, his wife Ellen received one of the dreaded black-edged telegrams. Determined to see where he had lost his life she gave up her job as a clerk, joined the WVS and managed to get herself posted to the Far east. There she helped repatriate prisoners of war back to Britain - and where she managed to become probably the first British war widow to visit the Kohima war cemetery, which was still being built.

Then there was Brigadier John Shapland - who continued fighting for an hour after being shot through the neck. He eventually had to be ordered to retire by his commanding officer, Major General Grover. Legend has it that he was particularly annoyed because his own blood ruined his last two cigars, which had been in his breast pocket.

The museum also tells the story of the local Naga people, without whose support - as scouts, porters and combatants - many believe the battle of Kohima could not have been won. To this day, the Kohima Educational Trust (KET) raises money to provide educational opportunities for young people in Nagaland.

On July 4 at 11.30am, the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima will be officially commemorated in Dean's Park, where a bronze plaque remembers the battle. That same day, there will be a street collection in the city centre and at York Railway Station to raise money for the KET's work in Nagaland.

But if you want to find out more about the battle before then, you could do far worse than visit the Kohima Museum.

Based at Imphal Barracks, it is open to the public on Thursday mornings from 9am til 12 noon: just turn up at the Imphal Barracks guardhouse with some photo ID.

Larger groups can also arrange visits at other times by emailing