Extracts From An Officer's Diary
May 6th 1944
With a party of the 1 Queen's we heaved our way out of the mud at Bokajan today and made for Kohima, about 70 miles south. The scenic beauty of the winding mountain would be well worth a tourist trip in peacetime, but the heavy rain and obvious lack of maintenance has made it a nightmare trip for our convoy.
Negotiating the 'S' bends in a skidding truck, with wheels whirring hopelessly in the slime is an experience not at all funny. Especially so when I had the occasional burst of courage to look down the preciptous cliffsides. A large hoarding fixed to a tree didn't help, either. It announced, in red lettering:-
You are now under observation by the Japs so watch out if you want to live
Well, this seems to be it, all over again.
In the distance, Kohima looked as if it had just had a fall of snow and, for a short while, it was the most inexplicable of sights. Snow, here? I could not make anything of it at all, even through my binoculars. As the convoy got nearer, it appeared that the effect was caused by the constant parachute droppings on the beleaguered West Kents, who had been surrounded on the hills by the Japs for some three weeks. The snow-white 'chutes were draped everywhere: there must have been thousands of them.
The 2nd Div got through to the West Kents some days ago, and I feel it will not be long now before we are used. Skirting around Kohima itself, we have dug in at a spot below Jotsoma. We are all plonked in on top of one another here: artillery, mules, infantry, the lot. And what a racket! Somebody's 25 pdrs (I think they must be 2 Div) loose off a terrific barrage all through the night every 5 minutes or so, and, to crown another beautiful day it poured down in torrents.
May 7th 1944
1 Queen's have gone into action this morning against a strongly held hill feature called Jail Hill. The Japs are also shelling us with heavier stuff (or so it seems) than they used on us in the Arakan. During a lull, I inched my way around to the, hill and heard a constant, clear bird-call without quite comprehending what it could be. It was, of all things that fly, a cuckoo.
What a mess this place is in! Everything; tracks rent and gouged; trees without a single leaf or branch showing, hillside torn to pieces by constant shell-fire and monsoon rains. To use someone else's well worn expression:- It is an abomination of desolation.
May 14th 1944
The Japs have been finally pushed of Jail Hill, although their snipers are still very active, and they manage to lob an occasional mortar bomb in among us. The dead are heaped up in their shattered fox-holes, while searching them has been an arduous and stinking job. In the holes Mohamed Akbar has to grasp hold of both my feet while I go over the bits that are left of them. On the way back to TAC HQ, loaded to the gunwales with Jap stuff, I met Brig Loftus-Tottenham and he asked me if I had ever seen a mess like the Hill. For once I truthfully answered 'no'. He was enthusiastic and genuinely elated by the way our artillery had pounded the position in support of the Queen's and Gurkhas.
Just one quick glance at Jail Hill gives a complete picture of war and its utter destructiveness. It is the most appalling mess I have ever seen. The red earth is torn and churned by thousands of shells pumped in to it during the four days, and the deeper craters, like filthy abscesses, are quickly being filled by muddy water. Dead and smelling Japs are literally festooned on tree-stumps after the attacks of our Hurri-bombers, and inside the flooded fox-holes lumps of flesh splash around.
Not a blade of grass or a green leaf remains on the trees of this once lovely well-wooded slope; the clammy, rolling monsoon mists now rolling over it makes it just about the most unearthly scene ever.