NAGAS - “The great little gentlemen of the jungle”

Frederick Weedman

The Nagas were tribesmen who lived in the jungle covered mountains between Assam and Burma. They were highly intelligent, humorous, impulsive in temper, easily moved to violence.

Their ancestors had been ‘head-hunters’ and on the sharpened stakes surrounding their villages of bamboo huts built on stilts, they still displayed shrunken heads. 

During 1944 when the 7th Battalion Worcestershire Regiment was part of the resistance preventing the Japanese from invading India, they were our friends. Our initial contact was when they provided guides for the expedition to take the road to Merema. They also greatly loved and respected the District Commissioner for that area, Charles Pawsey, who had always been their friend. They were loyal to our King George even during the most depressing times of the invasion of their lands. 

They hunted the invading Japanese who had violated their women during the Japanese advance on Kohima. Despite floggings, torture , executions and even the burning of their villages by the Japanese, they did not divulge the whereabouts of our troops. Their help to us was beyond value or praise. A Naga Headman was flogged into unconsciousness, revived, and then made to watch his wife being flogged, because he would not divulge the location of the British troops. He held firm and so did his wife. 

They guided our columns, collected information about Japanese movements, carried our supplies, carried stretchers and brought in our wounded under the heaviest of fire. All they would receive as reward was the occasional tin of ‘bully beef‘, which they adored. 

Many British soldiers owe their lives to the Nagas, and members of the 14th Army will always think of them with admiration and affection. No people were more faithful to the Allied Cause, or have deserved better of it, than the Nagas.

They were truly “The Great Little ‘Gentlemen’ of the Jungle”

Source: An Archive of World War Two memories gathered by the BBC