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Missing history traced: 87 Brave Manipuries of the First World War

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)
‘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.
 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.

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,
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
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, P
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, P
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

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