Cameron veterans remember those who fell at Kohima

 Rev Peter Nimmo (right) and Rev Alasdair MacLennan dedicate Cameron Highlanders' Memorial Area


Rev Peter Nimmo (right) and Rev Alasdair MacLennan dedicate Cameron Highlanders’ Memorial Area at the Old High Church on 18 August 2013

 

For further information about this service please contact the Rev Peter Nimmo on 01463 250802. Members of the media are welcome to attend the service, which starts at 11.15am.

Read the sermon for the service here

Cameron veterans remember those who fell at Kohima

Veterans of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders will parade at the Old High Church , Inverness, on Sunday morning (May 4), to remember members of the regiment who died 70 years ago at the bitter Battle of Kohima, on the border of India and Burma.

Their presence coincides with the transfer “home” from Glasgow Cathedral to the Old High, the Camerons’ regimental church, of the colours of the former regular 1st Battalion, which played a vital part in the defeat of Japanese forces during the battle.

These colours, which are to be rededicated by minister the Rev Peter Nimmo, will join the colours of the 6th and 7th wartime service battalions, and the 3rd Militia Battalion, which have hung in the Old High Church for many years.

Organisers hope that a handful of actual veterans of the battle, now in their late eighties or nineties, will be among those attending the service in memory of the men who fell serving with Inverness-shire’s own regiment.
Former Cameron Highlander and Queen’s Own Highlander Lieutenant Colonel Angus Fairrie, North Kessock , a leading expert on regimental history, will deliver a short address on the Camerons’ contribution to the battle. He said this week:

Kohima was a very significant battle for the 1st Camerons in the war, as it marked the beginning of the campaign to liberate Burma.

A bronze plaque, with the names of around 100 Camerons who died in the battle, is now on permanent loan to the Old High Church , thanks to Col Fairrie’s intervention. It had previously hung on the 2nd Division’s memorial at Kohima, but had been removed in the 1980s, for fear that it might fall prey to metal thieves, and had lain for many years at Fort George Museum .

Among those expected to attend is Major Donald Maclauchlan, son of the Rev Francis Maclauchlan, who served as padre to the 1st Camerons at Kohima, and later as minister of the Old High from 1950 to 1963.

Early in 1944, Japanese forces in Burma began a major offensive west, in a last desperate bid to invade Northern India .

The battle for the strategic community of Kohima, which took place over a 50-day period between March and May of that year, only 30 miles from the Indian border, marked a pivotal point in the war in the FarEast.

The victory by British and Commonwealth forces there, together with a similar triumph at Imphal, 50 miles to the south, ended forever Japanese attempts to conquer India .

As part of the British Second Division, the 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders fought throughout most of the battle, playing a leading role in eventual victory.
The Camerons’ memorial at Kohima bears the famous inscription, attributed to English poet and classicist John Maxwell Edmonds, which states poignantly:

When you go home, tell them of us and say
For their tomorrow, we gave our today.

Veterans have set up an Educational trust for local people in Kohima: please visit http://www.kohimaeducationaltrust.net/

HISTORICAL NOTES

Following the Army Reforms of 1881, Inverness-shire formed most of the regimental district of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders, while a regimental depot and headquarters were established at the newly-erected Cameron Barracks.
During World War I the Cameron Highlanders expanded to 14 battalions. At the end of the Great War the “service battalions” of the New Army – those embodied for the duration of hostilities – were each presented with a King’s Colour to mark war service.
When these battalions were disbanded, the King’s Colours of the 6th and 7th Service Battalions of the Cameron Highlanders were laid up in the Old High Church . After the the Cameron Highlanders’ depot closed in 1960, the colours of the 3rd Militia Battalion of the Cameron Highlanders, which had hung at the Depot, were also laid up in the Old High Church. The colours have recently been restored and re-hung, and have now been united with those of the 1st Battalion.
Regular and Territorial Army battalions of the Cameron Highlanders saw extensive service during World War II and after, and in 1961 the regular 1st Battalion Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders amalgamated with the 1st Battalion Seaforth Highlanders to form the Queen’s Own Highlanders, a regiment which itself has since passed into history.
The last British Cameron unit, the TA 4th/5th Battalion, recruited in Inverness-shire and Nairnshire, disbanded in March 1967.
However, the regimental name and tradition still flourishes actively across the Atlantic, in the form of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Canada and the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders of Ottawa, Canadian militia units based respectively at Winnipeg and Ottawa .

Last year a new memorial area was dedicated within the Old High Church to the now vanished regiment.
The Old High Church became the regimental church of the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders in the absence of a church at the Cameron Barracks.
It now houses various memorials, and rolls of honour (memorial books) as well as some of the regimental colours.
The new memorial area has been funded by the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders Association, Inverness Common Good Fund and anonymous congregation members, and lies within the main part of the church.
Its poignant centrepiece is the Martinpuich Cross, which has been relocated from the east stairwell of the church, where it had lain in relative obscurity for over 90 years..
This simple wooden cross was erected by members of the regiment’s 6th Battalion during the Battle of the Somme, after the Camerons had played a distinguished part in the attack on the village of Martinpuich .
Although the Germans later recaptured Martinpuich, the cross, to which the names of those who fell in the battle were attached on metal tags, was recovered at the end of the war and brought back to the Old High Church .
Also gathered in the new area are the Cameron Highlanders’ roll of honour books, war memorial plaques and other historic artefacts from around the church.
The memorial area is separated from the main body of the church by a wooden partition topped by a frosted glass screen featuring a striking design by Old High elder and former Inverness Royal Academy art teacher, Gordon Harvey.

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  1. Pingback: Sermon for Kohima anniversary service, 4 May 2014: A companion on the way | Old High St Stephen's Church

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