The 2nd Division Kohima Museum and Kohima Memorial Trust
Imphal Barracks, Fulford Road, York YO10 4HD
Curator - Bob Cook
Telephone: 01904 665806 (Thursday am only)
Mobile: 07974 672151
The Kohima museum has been around in one form or another since 1982, which is when the 2nd Division returned to the UK from BAOR. It started off as an ad-hoc collection of items collected over the years and developed to become a fully accredited museum under the Arts Council of England (ACE), which we are in the process of updating.
SCOPE OF THE COLLECTION
During this whole period the museum has focused on the deeds and actions of the British 2nd Division surrounding the battle of Kohima. This is now in the process of changing.
It has become increasingly apparent in recent years that as the number of veterans of the Battle of Kohima diminish, so the interest from relatives of veterans and historians has increased. It is also clear to me that there is a great imbalance in the visibility to the public between the war in Europe and the war in South East Asia.
This imbalance is apparent at almost all levels and in almost all areas, from many Regimental Museums to National museums to celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the end of the War.
I have been trying for about 4 years to broaden the scope of our collection and displays to embrace the whole of the Burma Campaign but had been unable to significantly shift the stance of the museum trustees.
In the wake of a number of the trustees coming to the end of their tenure, the election of new trustees and the process of updating the Accreditation for ACE, it became apparent that the current Declaration of Trust under which the museum had been operating is no longer fit for purpose.
I also pointed out to the new trustees that this small museum represents that only window to the Bruma Campaign in the whole of the U.K. It is a actually only one of two that I am aware of globally. This is apart from small displays in regimental museums that had battalions out there.
During my time at the Kohima Museum in York, I have had many visits from people who said that their father, uncle, granddad etc served in the Chindits or the RAF or any of the many Indian Divisions. This has strengthened my belief that this museum had a duty to represent in the form of displays, photos and film, the wider aspects of the Burma Campaign..
At a recent Trustees meeting, the trustees agreed with this belief and instructed me to approach other interested groups to see if we can come together to properly present the Burma Campaign and to allow the public to see the many different aspects and contributions from the many formations and services that contributed to the victory against the Japanese.
Our Declaration of Trust is being rewritten so that it properly reflects the current situation. It is likely that the title will change to show that the museum encompasses the whole of the Burma Campaign, although the word Kohima will remain in that title.
It is apparent that although the battles of Imphal and Kohima constituted significant turning points in the war against the Japanese Imperial Forces, these battles were not stand alone affairs but were instead parts of a great network of situations and events that took place from the great retreat in 1942 to the fall of Rangoon in 1945.
Of course the many other organisations and formations played their significant part in the resounding defeat of the Japanese Imperial Forces but where is their story told?
Where can a person go to be able to see the equipment that was worn and used, to hear the stories and to see the small amount of footage available? The only place where these are all collected together is at the Kohima Museum in York.
We already have a number of items from the Chindit ‘community’ that have been donated because of our connection with the Burma Star Association and which are now on display. We also have items relating to the Royal Air Force. Our knowledge of the wider campaign and the formations and men who took part is increasing and becoming more detailed as the story of Kohima and Imphal must be told against the background of the battles before and after, so it is essential that we broaden our collection policy so that the men and women who fought and died, as well as those who came home is never again forgotten.