WWII Chinese cemetery seeks more tourist footfall

  • | Wednesday | 27th September, 2023

Ramgarh: The World War II cemetery, which stands as a unique symbol of the Sino-Indian friendship when British India and China fought together in the Burma Campaign to protect Indian territory, is longing to become a global tourist destination.The historic World War II cemetery is spread over seven acres of land along the Ramgarh-Barkakana state highway in the garrison town where as many as 667 Chinese military officers and soldiers were buried. During the war, Chinese soldiers trained by the US at the secret military camp in Ramgarh fought in Burma against the fast-advancing Japanese troops. The secret military training centre in Ramgarh was the first camp of the US on any foreign soil. The camp is now the training centre for two Army infantry regiments — Punjab and Sikh.It is also not widely known that the Chinese army fought against Japan alongside the Allied Forces, particularly Americans who operated from Indian soil in World War II. On January 14, 2018, a five-member team of the Chinese consulate in Kolkata led by its consul general M A Zhanwu visited the cemetery and met then deputy commissioner Amitabh Kaushal, expressing Chinas willingness to cooperate with Indian authorities for developing the soldiers burial place as a global tourist destination. Senior Ajsu-P leader and former minister Chandra Prakash Chaudhary also drew the attention of the state government to take initiatives with the Centre for its development, but no action has been taken up, so far.This little-known but massive cemetery has the graves of 667 Chinese officers and soldiers, who were part of the 30,000-odd Chinese Expeditionary Force that took part in the Burma Campaign. Notably, the Chinese leader and the Allied supreme commander in the China theatre, Chiang Kai Shek, accepted US President Franklin D Roosevelts nominee Lt General Joseph W Stillwell, a man deeply versed in the Chinese tradition, to lead the troops, following which the Ramgarh military training camp was set up, according to a book written a few decades ago by Col (retd) Anil Shourey.The US selected Ramgarh because of its strategic advantage — better railway connectivity for ferrying men and equipment and widespread land for expansion. Shek approved the Chinese training camp in Ramgarh on June 29, 1942. Earlier, there was a prisoner-of-war camp, which was vacated with the shifting of the prisoners to other locations. The camp was used for Chinese soldiers training. The first trainload of Chinese troops arrived at Ramgarh on July 17, 1942, and comprised troops from the 38th Division of the 66th Army battalion which had returned from Burma by way of Imphal. It was commanded by Lt General Sun Lih Hen. They were soon followed by troops of the 22nd Division and 5th Corps commanded by Major General Liao Yai Shiang. This group had come out of Burma from Ledo. The movement of Chinese troops to Ramgarh continued through July, August and September of 1942.However, Stilwells Chinese and American troops had little success as many of the soldiers fell ill from malaria, cholera, dysentery and snakebites while many others were injured in enemy action. Some died even before they could be evacuated. Wherever possible, those injured on the front were evacuated to Assam from where they were air-lifted to Ranchi and then moved to Ramgarh by road. The Chinese soldiers who died during the war could not be taken to China and they were buried in a special Chinese War Cemetery in Ramgarh, a retired Army officer said.The cemetery can be reached from the state highway nearly through the one-km approach road from Subash Chowk in Ramgarh town. The road is in bad shape and full of potholes. The entrance gate has a marble plaque inscribed in Chinese, Hindi and English with the words — This cemetery is the permanent home to the heroes of the Armed Forces of the Republic of China who sacrificed their lives and died with honour in a combined operation with British and American Forces to build the China-India highway and successfully prevented enemy forces from occupying India and not allowed them to join the German Forces in the middle east.

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