|Lieutenant Colonel Mike Lowry
Well now that, of course, under those sort of circumstances, is really very funny and another occasion was, a soldier who was in the next fox-hole to me, and he knew that we were due to have reinforcements some time, in the meantime we were getting air drops of ammunition and food and this sort of thing, and when the first lot of air drops came in, I think they were American Dakotas actually, a lot of lovely coloured parachutes were coming down, every colour meant something different, red for ammunition shall we say, and food was yellow or whatever, and as they came in and were being dropped this private soldier said to me, "Sir, do you know what these parachutes are, Sir, they're our reinforcements, and do you know what they are, Sir, they are dehydrated Americans!" Well of course that was twofold, very amusing because the Americans we know were doing these sort of things, but we were actually eating American rations you see, or had been, and the American 24 hour pack ration was, I say American like that, they were air lifted from the Americans, so I mean no doubt we've built them up later on, they were made up in India, but the ration pack, the 24 hour ration pack, everybody had a ration pack, usually carried a couple of days or so in our packs, always, and of course one ran out of those in due course. But the ration, I find it very difficult to recall what it had, but it would have a sort of breakfast cereal at some stage in the bottom there, bullied beef came in to it, it had some dried fruit, it had some dehydrated potato certainly, pop some into water and they came out a bit larger and so on, and that sort of thing, and also invariably, probably, a packet of cigarettes, five cigarettes or something like that, not that that kind of thing happened every time. I can't really recollect any more about that ration but it was a 24 hour ration pack, mostly easy cooking, and it was already prepared, you just had to pop it into water or whatever, and I can tell you one of the awful things one didn't like now and again, was trying to eat cold salmon at 4 or 5 o'clock in the morning for breakfast, that was probably not in the ration pack, but I can remember having to eat that at some stage because one only said "Urgh" to that.
... our brigade was flown out from Chittagong which was down in the South in Bangladesh and we were in an aeroplane, and my aeroplane should have had a jeep in it but somehow or other the jeep was busy doing other things, so instead of a jeep we had five thousand loaves of bread stacked up down the middle of the aeroplane, my company headquarters sitting on either side of the bread. Anyhow, we landed up in Assam and in the course of time we moved towards the battle front and de-bussed I suppose what might have been three or four miles from the battle, and when we arrived at the battle itself. When we arrived it would have been the end of April, early May, there was one hell of a battle going on. You couldn't tell where the fighting was, it was all over there somewhere and it was about a mile of two away and it was raining, it was the monsoon sort of period, early May, a lot of rain anyhow. We could see the sort of battles without picking out who was what or where and the jungle was in front us, virtually, fairly deluded but not entirely because of the battles going on, the artillery, the Air Force dropping bombs, and what was extraordinary paradox, the fact that it was pouring with rain on those occasions when we arrived and yet the troops up there who were already fighting for the defence of Kohima were being air dropped water because they were on a hill and they couldn't get water, but that was a most extraordinary paradox but that was absolutely true. In due course, a matter of literally a couple of days or so, we put in the first battle, our first assault in Kohima which the Queen's had to do to relieve the pressure over there. We were not successful that first day, we were beaten off by the Japanese because their machine guns on either flank could, as it were, infiltrate us and so when we might have been successful going up on the top which we were, but when we got there we were being fired at and lost casualties on either side because the machine guns on both flanks had not been cleared and that the attacks should have gone on at the same time so as to keep the Japanese busy, but that didn't happen the first time. So the second attack was put in four days later, 11th May, and I was then involved in that because I was leading company and had to lead. In fact I lead the Battalion towards Jail Hill and it was midnight or so, 1 o'clock in the morning, and then got as far as I thought I could and then fanned the company out and so on. What I should have said in the first battle, the earlier part up in Kohima, I should have said there had been a lot of casualties. I myself, in my company already had a Platoon Commander and about six or eight men or maybe more than that, I can't remember now, who were killed before we actually got to Jail Hill, that was two or three days beforehand. So I was a Platoon Commander short, that meant my Second in Command of my company was that Platoon Commander and anyhow, when we attacked we attacked about 5 o'clock in the morning with our [turry] laid on [gurney], and what was surprising to me was that the Japanese had put out no patrols to discover if anyone was in front of them and they had only got to have us or something out there and they could have brought down their own defensive fire and sorted us out, but they didn't, and so we had an easy passage up to the feature and as we got to the feature we were fired at because daylight was coming, fired at from the flanks and fired at from in front, fairly impenetrable stuff, and the crucial thing was to get over the crest of the hill. The real enemy defence was behind the hill because when coming over the top we got too silhouetted but, anyhow, the thing was to get the crest anyhow because when you had it you dominated, but it so happened that we edged our way forward, my Company and C Company on my right, edging our way forward to the crest of the hill. That was important, and we got to within grenade throwing range of the enemy and it was about ten to fifteen yards down there somewhere, twenty yards best to start with, anyhow they were just inside grenade throwing range and on my immediate right was C Company but I didn't expect to see the C Company Sergeant Major. Now the point of this is that C Company had already lost three Company Commanders, one after the other as it were, one before we did that attack and the two on that day as we were attacking, they got it badly over there and this Company Sergeant Major was on my right here and as I saw him literally three yards, two yards away from me like that, he suddenly rolled over and I saw he had been hit by a bullet through the middle, out through the other side, and he was dead, and I looked to my front like that and I saw the man that had shot him and I have to say this because he was only ten yards away. I saw the man who shot him and I actually then killed him because he hadn't, I don't know why, killed me, but there we are, he thought he was so pleased that he'd killed this chap, but we were very close for a long time and we edged our way forward a little bit more. I suppose the closest we ever really got was probably only ten yards between that and that wall there. We now had a lot of casualties and so I had to reform my company so that we were, instead of having two men over there and six men over there sort of thing.
Well at that time there they lay. I wrote a book about this, published about 1950. In that I made it fairly clear that with all this going on the stretcher bearers were working like mad under a Lance Corporal French. I had four stretcher bearers, every company had stretcher bearers, and they were working like mad withdrawing the casualties and taking them down and then there would be a regimental aid post down below and getting them away from the battlefield. Then it wasn't until about two days later when we cleared the enemy off the top and during the course of that night and the next morning we inched our way further forward still and then I went back. Obviously we'd got the feature and the enemy had lost it although they were still around. I was called back to Battalion headquarters, yes that's right, and when I got back to my company everybody was walking around the hill, the enemy had gone, they had slipped away in the night. When we got into their bunkers we found that the central bunker there could hold 50 men and it had steel shutters and things like that. Jail Hill was quite a prominent hill, it overlooked the main road and so it had to be taken, it was an important hill, and what was interesting was that the Japanese had prepared that hill, which we didn't know of course, until we had captured it, but there was this big bunker which held fifty people and there were a lot of other fox holes connected to it of course lined up. We suddenly realised they had gone and it was from that time onwards, to answer your question about the dead, all the dead were buried on May 12th/13th that sort of time, and were all collected together and buried.