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What is the Kohima Epitaph?

When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today

The above epitaph is engraved on the War Memorial to commemorate the men of the British 2nd Division who fell in the Battle of Kohima in 1944.  According to Major General John Grover, who commanded the 2nd Division at Kohima, the epitaph there was composed by Major John Etty-Leal and was probably inspired by an epitaph written during the First World War by John Maxwell Edmonds (1875-1958):-

When you go home, tell them of us and say
"For your to-morrows these gave their to-day."

Edmonds was a classical scholar and it is possible that he took his inspiration from the Ancient Greek Simonides of Ceos. It was Simonides who wrote the famous lines about the Spartan rearguard under Leonidas who held the pass of Thermopylae against the Persians in 480 BC.  One translation of Simonides' epitaph runs thus:-

Tell it in Sparta, thou that passes by
Here, faithful to her charge, her soldiers lie

If you are interested in reading more about the Battle of Kohima click here for details of how to visit the Department of Printed Books.


Unveiling of the war memorial of the Second Division, Fourteenth Army, at Kohima pub. in SEAC Newspaper, 19 November 1944

Inscriptions suggested for War Memorials  (pub. HMSO, London, 1919)