The WW II battle fought across a tennis court in Northeast!
April 4 – June 22, 1944 will always be remembered in the annals of Northeast history as the period where the most bitter fight took place. The battle of the Tennis Court, howsoever absurd it may sound was one of the fiercest battles witnessed in this region at that time.
The advance of the World War II Japanese army towards India was halted in Kohima in April 1944 at this very place in Kohima and the world witnessed the most brutal hand to hand fighting that actually took place in the garden of the Deputy Commissioner's bunglow, around a tennis court.
Here is looking back at the events which shaped the present:
On one side, Indian Army soldiers Ghurkas, Britons, of course, Indians and a sprinkling of Dominion men; on the other, the long suffering warriors of the Japanese fifteenth army in its reckless but deadly earnest attack on the Raj. This was the setting at the time of the fight. Both sides ready to pounce on one another.
The Japanese human wave attack came all the way from Burma in 1944. Banzai charge would be the right term. This had to be countered and the responsibility fell on the hands of Commonwealth troops at Kohima even though the ratio was a shocking 10:1.
Kohima had a tennis court because it had an imperial bungalow, the home, in fact, of Deputy Commissioner Charles Pawsey in pre-war times. The idyllic Pawsey estate and the heavily jungled hillsides round about were to become the iron bar on which the Fifteenth Army would break its teeth and at the very centre of this rapidly prepared army-trap stood the playing area. The tennis court became, in fact, one of the most contested bits of real estate of the conflict and from April 9 it stood between the armies, the Japanese and Indian Army building trenches on either side.
Grenades, mortars and even artillery were all brought to bear on this 'peculiarly situated' island and 13 and 17 April the Japanese came close to driving the Indian Army troops off the tennis court and the ridge where the wreck of the bungalow stood.
The bungalow of the British Deputy Commissioner and its tennis court was the ground at stake. This place was seized by the Japanese, who had built a warren of bunkers and weapons pits on the surrounding terraced hillside. The task of winkling out the Japanese was given to the men of the 2nd Battalion Dorsetshire regiment.
Around May 15 the Japanese 31st Division began to withdraw and the fresh British and Indian troops from XXXIII Corps began to reinforce and relieve members of the 2nd Division and 33rd and 161st Indian Brigades. The battle of the Tennis Court was over and troops of the British Fourteenth Army began an advance, with the relief of Imphal, which would continue until Burma had been recaptured.
The Japanese who had been fighting to capture Kohima did not retreat at once, many of them stayed in the positions which they had captured and fought tenaciously for several more weeks. It is not entirely clear when the battle for the Tennis Court was won, however it seems that tanks operating from the road supported an infantry attack that captured the Tennis Court area on 10 May 1944.
This battle was ultimately to prove to be the turning point of the Battle of Kohima which was the turning point of the Burma Campaign.