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Unearthing the remains of the Second World War and chaptering a time in Manipur History


During Second World War nearly 200 planes crashed in Manipur. A total of 2 Lakh Allied forces and one Lakh Japanese soldiers in three divisions roamed Manipur at one point of time. They fought in nearly 30 battlefields. On casualties there were 28 thousand British/Indian soldiers and 50 thousand Japanese soldiers in the battlefields. As such there are war cemeteries where people pay tribute to the departed soul.
Through war diary, war map, inputs from war veterans, some enthusiastic individuals teamed up to excavate the remains of the Second World War in Manipur.
The First material the team found as they dug up the earth was a piece of drum. Bullet, Spent Cartridge/ bullet, Shrapnel, Helmet, Personnel Artifact, Grenade, Mortars Shell, Coins, and Parts of Crashed Planes etc were found and collected.
Now their efforts are getting recognized and recently Manipur has been featured in the cover page of Lonely Planet – one of the World’s leading tour guide magazine, the article highlight on destinations for war tourists and natural landscapes.
The team works under the banner Second World War Imphal Campaign Foundation and is a registered body since 2013. They also have a website www.ww2imphalcampaign.com.
Yumnam Rajeshwor Singh and Arambam Angamba are two key persons behind the campaign and they are the pioneer in the campaign. Their passion had paved way for a well recognized Manipur in the field of war history or had drawn the attention of the World making Manipur a destination for war tourists.
“You make very good friends in war research. With emotion and satisfaction, we are serving irrespective of the nationality. We pay floral tribute at Red Hills for the deceased Japanese soldiers for the deceased British soldiers at the Commonwealth Cemetery Deulaland”, expressed Rajeshwor Yumnam in an interaction with Manipur Times.
Since the last 70 years and consistently on every 13th April, Nungshigum Day is being observed at United Kingdom. The Regiment who fought in the Battle of Nungshigum commemorates the event with war veterans and supporters marching the road in full uniform carrying banners on Nungshigum. The spectacular event is a memorial service to the deceased and a home coming for the survivors. Lots of emotion and heartfelt moments circle around the commemoration.
From a book to a hub
Rajeshwor was searching for a book “Forgotten Army’s Boxes of Lion”. He searches the internet and found the author’s name Christopher Johnson. The author himself sent Rajeshwor the book he was looking for. Christopher not only sent the book he came down to Manipur to join the excavation which Rajeshwor initiated by teaming up with the author. Since then they have become very good friends.
Arambam Angamba was also collecting Relics at the same time. Their interests collide and the campaign rolled out.
Rajeshwor started research work in 2005/2006 and the actual site excavation started during 2007. The first excavation was done at Kanglatombi. It was with no modern tools. Christopher Johnson a United Kingdom citizen whose father fought in Imphal analyse Google earth and called up on the phone while Rajeshwor and team excavate at Kanglatombi. The second excavation was at Harva Khangai of Ukhrul.
Excavations after Excavations
Some of the excavated sites so far are Nungshigum, Motbung, Kameng hills, Old Silchar track, Laimaton, Lamdang, Machi, Pallel, Runway Hill, Battlefield of Pidonu, Lamlai, Battlefield of Torbung, Tengnoupal, Heingang, etc.
Excavations by the team were usually done on Saturday or Sunday or as soon as information is found through war diary, war map information etc.
Among the excavated items there was a cup with monogram of King George VI . It is presently being displayed at Kohima War Museum Yorks, London run by families of War Veteran who fought at Kohima, Nagaland.
Few Achievements of Second World War Imphal Campaign
Discovered Runway Hill a very Battle site where Jemadar Abdul Hafiz the first Indian Muslim to get a Victoria Cross fought his famous battle.
Discovered the first battlefield of World War 2 in Indian Soil at Kanghui village of Ukhrul District. The peak is called Harva Khangai.
Imphal War Museum inaugurated at Tera Amudon (Arambam Angamba’s residence) last year on 4th April by Christopher Johnson and family members of other soldiers who fought in Imphal.
Help a Japanese filmmaker Junichi Kajioka for his Monaco Film award winning film ‘ Imphal 1944 during its world premiere at Imphal
Rajeshwor and Angamba Arambam became the first two members from India in International Guild of Battlefield Guides.
Celebrated 70th Anniversary with Manipur Tourism Forum and Government of Manipur where embassies from different countries participated.
The team has tied up closely with Burma Star Association, Burma Campaign Society, 50th Indian Para Brigade Association, The Royal Scots Dragon Guard Association London ( who use to drive war tank in Imphal)
And many more ..
Team members
Members of 2nd WW Imphal Campaign Foundation are spread across the State. Some are at Pallel, Motbung, etc and they are involved in excavation and functions. In village there are volunteers who inform the core team of any findings.
Working style
Information is gathered from old photographs, official regimental war diary collected from source. The official regimental diary runs into thousand pages and contains minute details on the war including time, date, action and strategy. It also includes maps which show the attack and artillery used in full details. The excavation teams have to match the weapon also. It serves as authentication.
The team before excavation has to study the war diary which also includes aerial pictures, the team also take reference from the war veterans for more inputs.
War grave commission
The war grave photographic commission under Commonwealth War Graves Commission photography project is a voluntary organization where family members seeking pictures of Graves were given photos. Out of three Volunteers from India, Rajeshwor is one.
Rajeshwor has submitted various Grave photographs voluntarily which help the family members at the other end of the world.
“We also click the photos of the old location to compare the past in exact angle shot while recognizing the battle field. There were sleepless nights and it is a passion driven excavation. One greatest achievement was at Kanglatombi War Memorial, after thorough research Christopher Johnson and I came to know that there were mistakes at the engraved sites of Kanglatombi War Memorial. I have to travel to 3 CORPS HQ at Dimapur and address the issue at the Army Headquarters, Leimakhong and gave the research proof to the concern personnel after which the mistakes in spelling and names were rectified. That was in 2013”, expressed an enthusiastic Rajeshwor.
Now we have upgraded our excavation tools and we have three metal detectors. We also buy from the villagers who found the war remains accidentally while digging earth for their own purpose, he continued.
The consistent efforts have caught global attention and reports on Imphal Campaign were carried and aired in major newspaper and television news like Times of London, NHK Japan and the team also receives calls from many other countries including France for site information and ground realities at present.
Latest excavation exercise
“ Three planes crashed in Loktak Lake. Igarashi a ferocious Japanese soldier who shot down 17 planes was among who died in the plane crash at Loktak Lake”, informed Rajeshwor on his latest findings.
Details of plane number, names of the plane and how many planes and how they got crashed, number of death, circumstances leading to crash are in the custody of WW2 Imphal Campaign Foundation and the hunt is on to unearth the remains. The team is finding out different crash sites at present.
The ultimate cause
People may not be able to come to Manipur and pay tribute to their forefather, we give respect in place of them, and we are digging our history. Our contribution to the history is good expressed Rajeshwor. Our forefathers also fought in the battle and there are many war veterans in Manipur. We should include the historic event and write more books on it for people to know or include in the history books.
Future planning
Excavating remaining battlefield in Manipur, Plane Crash site discovery, opening of a Database center where details at a click is made available, opening of a Library related to WW 2 Imphal campaign, Memorial erections are some of the future plan the campaign group is focusing now.
Cup having monogram of King George VI
Facebook page of World War 2 Imphal Campaign

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