Spare a thought for the forgotten campaigns

27/05/2014  -  1.54

Dr Peter Preston-Hough

2014 is a momentous year for military history. In November we commemorate 100 years since the start of the First World War. The BBC alone have already started over four years of programming which will ultimately result in over 3,500 hours broadcasting spanning radio, television and the internet.

Small news items reporting on the 70th anniversary of the battle for Monte Cassino in Italy appeared on 18th May. 6th June 2014 marks 70 years since the momentous events in Normandy when the Allies successfully invaded France on D-Day, thus beginning the process of ending the war in Europe. 17th September 2014 will mark 70 years since Operation MARKET GARDEN was launched in an attempt to drive the Allies into the German industrial Ruhr over bridges in Holland, before ending in ultimate failure in Arnhem. Both these events will receive their due recognition by the press and television, but it is likely that the 70th anniversary of events in the Far East will be overlooked.

February 2014 marked 70 years since British and Commonwealth troops held out against the Japanese at the Battle of the Admin Box in Western Burma, their subsequent victory marking the first time the Japanese had been beaten in the theatre. Between March and June 2014 marks 70 years since British and Commonwealth troops were surrounded firstly at Kohima and then on the Imphal Plain.

Both these battles resulted in victory for the defenders and proved decisive as the Japanese were forced to retreat and abandon their plans to invade India. Many of us did not see any news items or documentaries to commemorate the Admin Box and one feels it is unlikely that any of these events will be remembered whilst the media concentrate on the First World War or on matters in Normandy or Holland.

When Lord Louis Mountbatten took command of the forces in South East Asia in 1943, he famously told the Fourteenth Army, ‘You think you are the Forgotten Army, well nobody has even heard of you.’ Whilst certainly not taking anything at all from the campaigns in Europe, perhaps 70 years on from those events in the Far East far away from Britain, we should take a little time remembering suffering and achievements a long way from home. 

Dr Peter Preston-Hough is part of the University of Wolverhampton’s War Studies department

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