Hero of Kohima, Colonel John Kenyon, dies at 84 | india | Hindustan Times
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Hero of Kohima, Colonel John Kenyon, dies at 84

india Updated: Dec 04, 2006 10:27 IST

Colonel John Kenyon, who won a military award for his key role as a mountain gunner in the critical battle of Kohima in India's north-east during World War II, has died at the age of 84.

Kenyon, who in later years became known as a dogged letter writer to the editor of The Daily Telegraph, held several positions in the British army. His role during the battle of Kohima has been described in some detail in the obituaries in the British press.

The Daily Telegraph wrote: "In 1944, Kenyon, a lieutenant, was serving with 5 (Bombay) Indian Mountain Battery, part of 25th Indian Mountain Regiment. On June 12 he was forward observation officer with a company of the 2nd Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment, which was mounting an attack near the village of Jessami, east of Kohima.

"Advancing in thick mist to within 40 yards of the Japanese, they suddenly came under heavy machine-gun, rifle and grenade-discharger fire from enemy entrenched in well-protected bunkers. Kenyon quickly brought down neutralising fire, which allowed the leading infantry to consolidate without further casualties.

"He then called down close supporting fire from two mountain batteries, which allowed his men to get within 20 yards of the bunkers before and led directly to their capture.

"Pouring rain, thick mist and the jungle terrain severely limited observation but his coolness, determination, accuracy and prompt action during nine hours under continuous heavy fire provided invaluable assistance to the infantry and saved many lives. He was awarded the MC".

Born on December 30, 1921, Kenyon was posted to 5 (Bombay) Indian Mountain Battery, part of 25th Indian Mountain Regiment in India.

The obituary added: "He developed a lasting affection for his mules. One night during close quarter fighting in the Arakan, a mule was badly wounded close to his trench. He got out to dispatch it, then returned to find that the trench had been destroyed by a shell.

"Having inflicted the first defeat on the Japanese in the Arakan, the 5th and 7th Indian Divisions - men, mules and guns - were then flown straight to Kohima without any rest. On operations, the 3.7-in pack howitzer (Kipling's screw gun) was transported in eight rapidly assembled mule-borne loads. The ability of the mules to operate in conditions inaccessible to vehicle-transported guns was a war-winning factor".