Prince Andrew Becomes Patron of KET
HRH The Duke of York lays a wreath at the cemetery in Kohima
The Kohima Educational Trust is honoured to announce that His Royal Highness The Duke of York has accepted its invitation to become its Patron.
His Royal Highness had long been interested in the Battle of Kohima, and when requested by Her Majesty the Queen to visit India on her behalf to commemorate her Diamond Jubilee, he proposed that his programme include laying a wreath at the site of the former battlefield, to remember the soldiers who had served the United Kingdom and Commonwealth in the Burma Campaign.
The visit took place in May 2012 and The Duke of York visited the Kohima Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery to pay his respects on behalf of Her Majesty, as well as meeting Naga veterans of the conflict.
In doing so, he became only the second member of the Royal Family to travel to Kohima; the first being Lord Louis Mountbatten who visited shortly after the battle to acknowledge the immense sacrifices made and the vital victory secured.
On his return, His Royal Highness asked to meet UK veterans of the battle and on 1 November 2012 seventeen veterans and family members made their way to a meeting with The Duke of York at Buckingham Palace.
He spent some time asking the veterans about their first-hand experience of events and commented that seeing the terrain in which they were forced to fight, and the famous ridge at Kohima around which the desperate struggle took place, had given him a fresh appreciation of their gallantry and fortitude. ln addition, he felt his visit had brought home the strategic importance of that single road over the mountains from Dimapur to Imphal, and its significance for the defence of India.
Following the Palace reception, which was covered by the BBC, His Royal Highness sent each veteran a DVD of his visit to Nagaland, which revealed the warmth with which he had been received by the Chief Minister and a large audience on his Kohima trip.
In his speech of thanks to His Royal Highness for their invitation to the Palace, Gordon Graham, President of the KET, touched on the founding philosophies of the Trust.
'An occasion like this is unavoidably about memory. But memory is not enough. The only constructive use of the past is to inspire the present to improve the future. Those of us who came home have now had our tomorrows and are proud to hand over the mission inspired by our memories to the next generation, of which you, sir, are a shining example.'
Responding, The Duke of York expressed a personal interest in KET’s activities and its aim of linking action with memory.
'l have heard the Kohima Epitaph said at many memorial services,’ he said 'but it was not until I visited the town and the cemetery on the site of the battlefield that I understood its true context.' He added that it was 'very important that our generation and the generations to come recognise and remember the sacrifice that took place there. Without this, the freedoms that we enjoy would not have been possible.
'The Kohima Educational Trust is a remarkable example of remembrance. lt reflects the extraordinary bond between the Naga and the British forces and the acknowledgement of the UK veterans that they owe a debt of honour to a people who lost their lives and livelihood supporting them in a conflict that was not of their making.
'Your dedication to ensuring that this is not forgotten is notable, as is your legacy: that each and every one of us has an important role to play in making sure that we live in a prosperous, happy and free world.'
Among his first duties as Patron, His Royal Highness attended the annual Kohima Memorial Service on 22 May 2013. After the service he spoke with the fourteen veterans who attended the service and laid a wreath at the 2nd Division plaque in the Minster Garden.
Seventeen veterans met The Duke at Buckingham Palace in November 2012.
(See News Item Veterans visit Buckingham Palace.)
Essie Cousins, 2013
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