Battle of Imphal

English Japanese (日本語)

The Imphal-Kohima Road

The Imphal-Kohima Road, with the Imphal Turel flowing alongside. The Road was cut off by the Japanese on March 30, 1944, and finally re-opened on June 22, 1944. The Imphal-Kohima Road, with the Imphal Turel flowing alongside. The Road was cut off by the Japanese on March 30, 1944, and finally re-opened on June 22, 1944. Photo by Ranjit Moirangthem


This road was in 1944 – and remains today – Manipur’s lifeline and main connection to the outside world. On March 29, 1944, the road was cut by the Japanese, who then reached as far as Sekmai, before the British began to push back. One of the main battles on the Japanese advance down the Road took place at Kanglatongbi, where a War Memorial has been erected.

On the British side, 63 Brigade of the 17th Indian Division was active in this sector until early May, after which it was replaced by the 5th Indian Division. It was the latter – commanded by Major General Harold Briggs – that led the British effort to open the road northwards. On the Japanese side was the 15th Division – commanded by Lieutenant General Masafumi Yamauchi – which had as its objective invading Imphal from the north.

The fight to open up the road northwards from Sekmai was a slow, difficult one. The Japanese had taken up defensive positions in the hills overlooking the road, each of which had to be prised from them. Giving a sense of the fighting from a British perspective, Lyman writes: ‘The battle for the road consisted of many small actions repeated, seemingly endlessly, often at section, platoon or sometimes company level. A hill, defile or bridge would be isolated and attacked in the traditional way by artillery if available (given the grave shortages by this time), by battalion 3 inch mortars, by Hurribombers or Vengeances, possibly a Lee Grant or Stewart tank firing main armament from the road, but principally by infantry closing on the enemy bunkers with bayonet and grenade.’

The Imphal-Kohima Road was not opened until June 22, 1944, when men of the 2nd British Division coming from Kohima and those of the 5th Indian Division from Imphal met at Milestone 109 near Kangpokpi.