This morning, Bailey & I went for a walk. We stopped at the Village War Memorial, as we always do on this day, and observed a two minute silence.
I was pleased to see that despite attempts by the government to prevent it happening, nearly 40 people had gathered together for an act of remembrance . The service was a cut-down version of normal, led by the Vicar and socially distanced. Wreaths were placed by elderly gentlemen with medals on their coat. Usually a young man plays the Last Post on a bugle, but since the virus becomes instantly lethal in the presence of musical instruments, it was played on an iPhone instead. We all sang the National Anthem although the rarely sung second verse was probably a mistake, since only one (rather loud) lady seemed to know the words.
Kohima is a hill town on the India-Myanmar border that between April and June 1944 saw some of the bitterest fighting of the Far East campaign, as British, Indian and Gurkha units, sustained by supplies dropped by the RAF, met and defeated a Japanese offensive intended to disrupt the planned Commonwealth advance into Myanmar and even enable a Japanese advance into India. The 2nd Division’s war memorial in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Kohima bears the epitaph that has become synonymous with the battle:
“When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today“
Although now commonly called the ‘Kohima epitaph’ these words were not written to commemorate Kohima, but were composed at the end of the First World War by a Cambridge classicist turned wartime codebreaker, John Maxwell Edmonds. He also wrote another epitaph.
“Went the day well? We died and never knew;
But well or ill, England, we died for you“
It is difficult to imagine that our fallen would have been impressed with the cynicism and moral cowardice of our present day politicians. It is far easier to imagine that they might have preferred the stoic determination of those who turned up to pay their respects and remember today.