Photographic print (b/w); two soldiers resting in a village near Kohima, 1944
This photographic print depicts two soldiers of the British Army resting at a village near Kohima, northeast India, in 1944. By this point of the Second World War, Japanese forces had advanced through Burma (now Myanmar) and were attempting to expand further into India, which was under British rule at the time. The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment were among a multinational force sent to turn back the Japanese offensive, which had reached the strategically important city of Kohima.
In over two months of brutal fighting, British, Indian and other Commonwealth forces gradually drove the Japanese from their positions on the Kohima Ridge - the high ground surrounding the city - and back eastwards down the Kohima-Imphal road. For both sides, the fighting was bloody and exhausting. It was monsoon season, and the steep slopes were covered with mud and thick vegetation - the soldiers sometimes had to cut steps into the hillside to advance. The Japanese troops were starving, having been given only a three-week supply of food.
The successful battle of Kohima and the neighbouring victory at Imphal were a key turning point of the war in the East, preventing a Japanese invasion of India and enabling Allied forces, the Royal Norfolk Regiment among them, to advance back through Burma over the following year.