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The 2nd Norfolk Regiment: From Le Paradis to Kohima (Paperback)

Local History WWII British History Military

By Peter Hart
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Series: Voices from the Front
Pages: 218
ISBN: 9781848844025
Published: 23rd February 2011

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The Second World War is vanishing into the pages of history. The veterans were once all around us, but their numbers are fast diminishing. While still in their prime many recorded their memories with Peter Hart for the Imperial War Museum. As these old soldiers now fade away their voices from the front are still strong with a rare power to bring the horrors of war back to vivid life.

The 2nd Norfolk Regiment were a proud old regular battalion honed in the pre-war traditions of spit and polish at their Britannia Barracks in Norwich. Sent to France they sold their lives to gain time for the retreat to Dunkirk when surrounded by an SS Division at Le Paradis in May 1940. Over 100 of the survivors would be brutally massacred. Back in England they reformed from ordinary drafts of men called up from all over the country. A new battalion was born. Sent to India they met the Japanese head on in the bloody fight for Kohima against the Imperial Japanese Army. As the fighting raged in the jungle the Norfolks were once again right at the very sharp end of modern war. This is their story.

As featured in.

Britain at War

The book is based on a series of interviews with members of the battalion conducted by Peter Hart, an oral historian at the Imperial War Museum. Hart has provided a connecting narrative, but it is the soldier's own voices that dominate the book. Amongst the interviewees was one of the two survivors of the massacre at La Paradis.
The most interesting part of the book covers the fighting in Burma. Here we get a real feel for the difficulties of operating in the jungle, especially when the battalion was sent on a seven mile long march to outflank the Japanese at Kohima that took them two days to complete because of the nature of the terrain.
This is a very valuable piece of work, recording the memories of the remarkable men who fought in France and in Burma, against two very different but equally tenacious opponents.

History of War

My uncle, Fred Wright was in the 2nd Battalion, Royal Norfolks so the book was a must-read.
What made the book stand out was the inclusion of memories recorded by the Imperial War Museum. They were put together in the book by Peter Hart to relay the battle of Kohima perfectly in minute detail.
The hardships of the terrain and battles were breathtakingly real.
From the book:-
"The battalion erected a memorial to their dead between GPT Ridge and Aradura Spur, and another to the whole of the 2nd Division was erected at Kohima. The inscription has since come to epitomize the entire British struggle and the poignant loneliness of their losses deep in the inhospitable jungle. It is known as the Kohima Prayer."

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

Five Victoria Cross were awarded to the Royal Norfolks in WW2, John Niel Randle's was for gallantry at Kohima. The ridge they fought so hard for is now named Norfolk Ridge.
The book is a must-read to all those who are looking for a first-hand account of a battle, so real as at times, I kept my head down..

Ronnie Taylor

About Peter Hart

Peter Hart was born in 1955. After attending Liverpool University he has worked as the Oral Historian at the Imperial War Museum since 1981. He is responsible for interviewing veterans of all conflicts from the Great War to the present day.

He is married with two deceptively lovely children and lives in North London.

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