87 Brave Manipuries of the First World War

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Putanleng grave, Grave of manipuri in France
Grave of Late Putanleng in France. Photo – Rajeshwor Yumnam

By Yumnam Rajeshwor Singh

‘In January 1917 the Secretary of State for India informed the Viceroy that 50,000 “South African kaffirs” were being send to France and asked if he could supply an equal number of labourers. While other local governments remained noncommittal, Archdale Earle, Chief Commissioner of assam, offered ‘eight to ten thousand able- bodied hill –men. Quite remarkably, this labour was being offered from the most sparsely populated tracts of Assam- the Garo, Khasi, and Jaintia hills and down along the Assam Burma frontier, the Naga hills, the mountainous tracts of Manipur Princely State and the Lushai hills’(Radhika Singha).

In April 1917, a group of 2000 recruits for the Labour Corps assembled in Imphal. They underwent a short period (around three weeks) of rigorous intensive physical training and on basic warfare knowledge. The leaders of the various contingents were as follows:

1. Porachao and Angom Porom Singh of Phayeng led the Meitei contingent;
2. R.S.Ruichumhao led the 1200 strong Tangkhul contingent;
3. Teba Kurong led the Kom contingent; and
4. Thomsong.Ngulhao, a Kuki Christian evangelist was the leader for the 500 Kuki recruits. (Pratap Chetri)
AP‘His Highness Maharajah Churchand Singh of Manipur State offered the Manipur Double Company and Manipur Labour corps which rendered distinguished service during the war. The Maharajah contributed an aeroplane and four motor ambulances amounted to Rs 51,300, Rs. 14670 to various relief funds, comfort funds and memorials, Rs 40,830 towards the expenses of the Double Company and Rs 3044 towards the expenses of the Corps’ (Budheswar Pati)

Recorded in The Gazette (London Gazette), issue 12680, 4 December 1917, His Highness Raja Chura Chand Singh, Raja of Manipur was appointed by the King of England to the Most Excellent order of the British Empire (CBE) for services in connection with the 1st World War. Later again as recorded  in The Gazette ( London Gazette), page 4 , 1st January 1934,  His Highness was  appointed  by the King of England as Knight Commander of the Order of the Star of India (KCSI).

Many Manipuries who went to participate the First World War must have died in various part of the world. After almost 96 years of the end of First World War, 87 numbers of Graves and Memorials belonging to Manipuries were discovered during my research in various cemeteries and memorials of France, Italy, Yemen and Egypt. The memorials and Graves belong to five different companies of Manipur Labour Corps. They are the 39th Manipuri Labour Coy, 40th Manipuri Labour Coy, 65th Manipuri Labour Coy, 66th Manipur Labour coy and the 22nd Manipuri Labour Coy.

The names with their corresponding cemetery/ Memorials with the country of the cemetery/ Memorial of the 87 graves are listed below:

Sl No Name Country Cemetery/Memorial
1 AHEI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
2 AKHILL PUKHINI France BARLY FRENCH MILITARY CEMETERY
3 ANGAD SEN Egypt HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL
4 APHUN France NEUVE-CHAPELLE MEMORIAL
5 AREILA France MAZARGUES WAR CEMETERY, MARSEILLES
6 ARIJI SHIVA France HAUTE-AVESNES BRITISH CEMETERY
7 ASUASH KAISHO France NEUVE-CHAPELLE MEMORIAL
8 BABULAL KURMI France NEUVE-CHAPELLE MEMORIAL
9 BULKHAUR Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
10 CHANDA THAKUR Egypt HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL
11 CHING YAM France ST. SEVER CEMETERY, ROUEN
12 CHUNGYANG France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
13 DALAI HEM Egypt HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL
14 HRANGA France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
15 JAITEH France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
16 JHANGPU France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
17 JHIGADAI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
18 JHONGTON France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
19 JOLKA HEMBRON France MAZARGUES WAR CEMETERY, MARSEILLES
20 JONGAI France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
21 KACHAO WANG France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
22 KAHAOSAN France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
23 KAHRAI DAILI France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
24 KAPANI ASHIO France LA CHAPELETTE BRITISH AND INDIAN CEMETERY, PERONNE
25 KHAMBEL KUKI France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
26 KHUTHANG France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
27 KUISUM France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
28 KURI HEL JADEL Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
29 KWELL YIN France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
30 LAL THAPU France ST. GERMAIN-AU-MONT-D’OR COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
31 LARRO PUNI France MAZARGUES WAR CEMETERY, MARSEILLES
32 LEISHISHAN Yemen MAALA CEMETERY
33 LONODON KA MA Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
34 LOWAN France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
35 LUANG PHANG France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
36 LUISHI France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
37 LUNGSHIN France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
38 MAHARSING SARKI France NEUVE-CHAPELLE MEMORIAL
39 MAIKU Egypt HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL
40 MAIPHUPA France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
41 MAKATHI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
42 MAKHALI TANGKHUL Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
43 MALEN-TUNG France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
44 MANAO France ST. SEVER CEMETERY, ROUEN
45 MANGEITHONG France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
46 MANGUEKUKI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
47 MANKHUKAN France ST. SEVER CEMETERY, ROUEN
48 MASHANGAM France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
49 MASON France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
50 MAUNG MYIN France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
51 MAUNG SANG PE Egypt HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL
52 MIKLING Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
53 MINGNGA France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
54 MOKTOL KUKI France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
55 MOLIENG France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
56 NGAISHI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
57 NGAL KHUTHONG France ST. SEVER CEMETERY, ROUEN
58 PAOLUNG France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
59 PAOTIMLAN France MAZARGUES WAR CEMETERY, MARSEILLES
60 PUNSHI Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
61 PUTANLENG France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
62 RAIZU JHARO France NEUVE-CHAPELLE MEMORIAL
63 RAMA SARIS France NEUVE-CHAPELLE MEMORIAL
64 RAZA CHU Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
65 RHAMBA France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
66 SAHJADA Egypt HELIOPOLIS (PORT TEWFIK) MEMORIAL
67 SAKAF France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
68 SALKHUKAM KUKI Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
69 SANGAI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
70 SANGTINGTA France ST. SEVER CEMETERY, ROUEN
71 SASHOI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
72 SENGGUR France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
73 SHEKATHAN France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
74 SHOIPHUNGA France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
75 SHOSHI LIMU France LA CHAPELETTE BRITISH AND INDIAN CEMETERY, PERONNE
76 SIPAI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
77 SUHAL France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
78 THAN DE YI Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
79 THICHING France NEUVE-CHAPELLE MEMORIAL
80 THISAN France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
81 THURM VUNG France LA CHAPELETTE BRITISH AND INDIAN CEMETERY, PERONNE
82 TOURO Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
83 VAREISU France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
84 VEMGAI Italy TARANTO TOWN CEMETERY EXTENSION
85 YAMKIELA France ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN
86 YANGTON France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION
87 YARMGAI France BLARGIES COMMUNAL CEMETERY EXTENSION

 

Out of these 87 Manipuries, two families had come forward to claim the photographs of the grave. Putanleng was originally from Tangkhul Hundung. His nephew is still today alive and lives in Litan.  Putanleng is buried in ST. SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, in Rouen, France. Almost all of the hospitals at Rouen remained there for practically the whole of the war. They included eight general, five stationary, one British Red Cross, one labour hospital, and No. 2 Convalescent Depot. A number of the dead from these hospitals were buried in other cemeteries, but the great majority were taken to the city cemetery of St. Sever.  So it can be concluded that Putanleng died in a hospital due to illness or by a wound from a battle. There is a possibility of Putanleng’s death in one of the above Hospitals after a battle injury. The German offensive had started one month before he died.

Another laborer’s grave picture was also handed over to his grandson, Mr Lohro from Mao, Manipur. The Grave of Akhill Pukhini is also located in France in the Barly French Military Cemetery. Barly is a village and commune in the Department of the Pas-de-Calais, some 25 kilometres south-west of Arras. Pukhini did not die in Barly. His remains were brought from isolated burials in France along with eight other Indians after the end of 1st world war to be reburied in this Cemetery.

Manipur has no memorial dedicated to those who participated the Great War. It’s time now the present generation carves the name of those brave forgotten Manipuries, so that the future generation will cherish the memories of their forefather.

References :-

  1. Radhika Singha. ‘The recruiter’s eye on “the primitive: to France in the Indian Labour Corps, and back, 1917-1918’.                                                            
  2. Pratap Chetri. ‘North East and the first world war’ , Eastern Panorama
  3. The London Gazette
  4. Budheswar Pati . ‘India and the first world war’
  5. Records of Commonwealth War Graves Commission

This article was sent for publication by Yumnam Rajeshwor Singh. The author can be contacted through  his email id yrs001(at)gmail(dot)com

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