The poignant story of Clive Townsend’s visit to his father’s grave, nearly 50 years after the Battle of Kohima Ridge, on a small group tour with Indus Experiences.
In 1944, the invasion of India by the Japanese Imperial Army was halted for 14 days by the bravery of a small garrison of 1,500 British and Indian soldiers stationed at Kohima Ridge.
It was here, in May of that year, that Frank Townsend, attached to the Royal Berkshire Regiment as a member of the Army Catering Corps, was killed in battle.
Frank left a widow and young son, Clive, whose life-long ambition was to visit his father’s final resting place. However, problems obtaining a visa had thwarted his hopes.
Happily, in 2021, Clive met Bob Cook, curator of the Kohima Museum in York and expert guide for specialist tour operator Indus Experiences. With Indus' support, Clive, now 82 and with reduced mobility, made his pilgrimage to Kohima and Imphal. Bob accompanied the group and enhanced the poignant battlefield visits with insights into strategies, tactics, complex battles, and local Naga culture.
It was an emotional moment when Clive witnessed the bridge, erected by the Royal Engineers, that his father would have crossed en route to Kohima.
At the Kohima War Cemetery, six young Naga students awaited Clive at his father's grave. One Nazeroni, whom Clive now sponsors through the Kohima Educational Trust, has stayed in touch and regularly brings flowers to the grave.
Indus Experiences were wonderful. They took care of my every need, from arranging a wheelchair for use on the tour, to Indian visas, flights and first-class accommodation, minibus transport and meals. Anyone elderly or disabled has nothing to fear. I'm so thankful to have made this journey to pay tribute to my father.
Indus organises Battlefield Tours throughout Asia for small groups and independent travellers. Their oldest customer to date is a 92-year-old Kohima veteran. Indus Experiences' next group tour to Kohima and Imphal, for the 80th anniversary of the Battle of Kohima, departs 2nd April 2024.