We are indebted to Derek Lawbuary who has been able to find out the origins
of the Kohima Epitaph:-
The Kohima 2nd Division
Memorial is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission on behalf of
the 2nd Infantry Division. The memorial remembers the Allied dead who repulsed
the Japanese 15th Army, a force of 100,000 men, who had invaded India in March
1944 in Operation U-Go. Kohima, the capital of Nagaland was a vital to control
of the area and in fierce fighting the Japanese finally withdrew from the area
in June of that year.
The Memorial itself consists of a large monolith of Naga stone such as is used
to mark the graves of dead Nagas. The stone is set upright on a dressed stone
pedestal, the overall height being 15 feet. A small cross is carved at the top
of the monolith and below this a bronze panel is inset. The panel bears the
"When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say,
For Their Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today"
The words are attributed to John Maxwell Edmonds (1875 -1958), an English
Classicist, who had put them together among a collection of 12 epitaphs for
World War One, in 1916.
According to the Burma Star Association the words were used for the Kohima
Memorial as a suggestion by Major John Etty-Leal, the GSO II of the 2nd
Division, another classical scholar.
The verse is thought to have been inspired by the Greek lyric poet Simonides of
Ceos (556-468 BC) who wrote after the Battle of Thermopylae in 480 BC:
"Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by,
That faithful to their precepts here we lie."
The lines from the
famous Kohima Epitaph
Some additional background about the epitaph,
it's origins and the Kohima Battle history.
This famous epitaph is found on numerous
Veteran Memorials and Monuments throughout the world. It is also found on
many internet websites for veterans ranging from India, Australia, UK,
United States and very likely on non-English veteran websites as well.
In nearly all instances the words cite
the origin as being from the Kohima Epitaph. Although that memorial is the
most well known, the lines pre-date the inscription on that WWII memorial.
I have assembled some of the material
from my internet search below. Several of which cite John Maxwell Edmonds
as the original author of those lines.
I have presented material here from a few
internet sources. Again, for the reason that sources on the web often
blink off and are lost. The copied versions are presented here solely for
informational and educational purpose with no intent to plagiarize.
It is my opinion that the lines of that
epitaph are some of the most moving lines written about veterans. They
state very succintly what it is that each veteran gave to his fellow
citizens, i.e. all of their tomorrows.
It also seems fitting that Mr. Edmonds,
who wrote those famous lines, should be cited as the author.
(Note, that in many of the quotes the
epitaph reads "your tomorrow" vs "their tomorrow".
It is thought that Edmonds' original poem used "their". Any
authoritative reference to clarify that point would also be appreciated.)
Please notify me of any other relevant
sources to Mr. Edmonds' penning of these now famous lines.
Send info here
18 March 2001
Our thanks to David Lock for this photograph showing the wording of the
Kohima Epitaph in the Kohima War Cemetery
- MORE LINKS
Doing a search for more internet
Using a good search
engine you can plug in various key-words or phrases and find many of
the pages that mention the "Kohima Epitaph" or John Maxwell
Here are just a few:
RefSource - 1
The following was copied from http://www.cbiinfo.com/bstar.htm
The Kohima Epitaph
In March 1944, the Japanese 31st
Division moved northwestward in Burma, swept through the Naga hills,
invaded India, and fell upon Imphal and Kohima. Confidently the Japanese
planned to press toward the India Plains. The Allies in the CBI Theater
faced a disaster of monumental proportions unless the enemy was stopped.
A crucial battle ensued at Kohima where
some 2,500 British Empire troops came under siege. They fought a
formidable Japanese force numbering 15,000 soldiers supported by 10,000
ammunition laden oxen. For weeks the belligerents sparred in bloody
artillery duels interrupted only by hand to hand skirmishes and bayonet
attacks. Finally, after 64 days, amid terrible losses on both sides, the
Japanese were beaten back. They withdrew from Kohima. Japanís
dominance in northern Burma had begun its crumble.
Understandingly, the determination and
gallantry shown by allied troops in the Kohima siege was quick to become
the subject of poem, song, and legend. Today in the Kohima cemetery,
among the 1,378 grave markers, is the famous Kohima Memorial with its
"When you go home
Tell them of us, and say,
For their tomorrow
We gave our today"
RefSource - 2
The following was copied from http://www.veteransmuseum.com/html/start.html
Poem by John Maxwell Edmonds,1875-1958. Printed in The Times of London,
6 February 1918.
RefSource - 3
The following was copied from http://www.mgateway.com/merrow/memorial.htm
relating to those lines:
When you go home tell them of us and
For their tomorrow we gave our today.
(Slightly edited version)
(These words) inscribed on a memorial
at Kohima and the Commonwealth War
Graves Commission (CWGC) confirmed this, stating that the words
are on the 2nd Division Memorial. Kohima War Cemetery is built over
the old tennis court (the markings are still preserved by the CWGC)
belonging to the District Commissioner before the war. The Japanese
advance was halted at this very tennis court.
These lines originate from J. Maxwell
Edmondsí Inscriptions suggested for war memorials published in the
1920s. Edmonds was a classical scholar and may have had at the back of
his mind the epitaph upon the Spartans at Thermopylae, composed by the
contemporary poet Simonides:
Go tell the Spartans, thou that
That faithful to their precepts here
RefSource - 4
The following was copied from http://www.1uptravel.com/states/nagaland/placestovisit.html
The Second World War Cemetery
Cemeteries are, generally gloomy
places. Kohima's second world war cemetery, however, is not such a
place. No place so beautifully situated, so superbly maintained, and
dedicated to the memories of those who sacrificed their fives
regardless of race, nationality or religion can be gloomy.
The Kohima war cemetery is serene and
beautiful. Roses bloom in season, the grass is always billiard-table
smooth and two tall crosses stand at the lowest and highest points of
the cemetery overlooking Kohima. between them, and stretching all the
way across this gently rising hill in the centre of the town, are
stone markers with shining bronze plaques. Each commemorates the name
of a single man who gave his fife for freedom. At the base of the.
upper cross there is an inscription which says : "Here, around
the tennis court of the deputy commissioner the men who fought in the
battle of Kohima in which they and their comrades finally halted the
invasion of India by the forces of Japan in Aprd 1944".
To one side of this memorial cross,
and often missed by visitors, there is a tree with a small plaque on
it. The plaque says: This flowering cherry tree is of historical
The original tree was used as a
sniper's post by the Japanese and was destroyed in the fighting which
raged round the tennis court and marked the limit of the Japanese
advance into India. The present tree is from a branch from the old
one. And at the base of the lowest cross, an inscription reads When
you go home Tell them of us and say For your tomorrow We gave our
Additional Edmonds References:
The following are the results of
internet searches for J.M. Edmonds.
They cite several of his academic works. Mainly translations of
Theocritus. "The Women at the Adonis Festival" Idyll XV. The
Greek Bucolic Poets. Trans. J.M. Edmonds. Cambridge: Harvard
University Press, 1950 (The Loeb Classical Library).
The Greek bucolic poets. [Rev.] ed.
Translated by J.M. Edmonds. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1970,c1928. xxviii, 526 p. Annotated no. 645 English and Greek
on opposing pages.
The Idylls. Translated by J. M.
Edmonds. In The Loeb Classical Library The Greek Bucolic Poets. 1912.
Reprint. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1938.
Epigrams, translated by J. M.
Edmonds, rev. John M. Cooper