Kangla Tongbi


After capturing the port of Singapore the Japanese moved with initiative at the heels of the Allied Forces in Burma who were fast withdrawing towards India. Allied Forces being unable to have a foot-hold, moved to Assam for safety by middle of 1942.

Anticipating the requirement of this retreating army which had entered Assam, two Depots i.e. 213 AOD (Advance Ordnance Depot) and 413 AAD (Advance Ammunition Depot) were raised in early 1942 at Manipur Road to re-equip and reorganise this force which was weary and defeated. 213 AOD was ordered to locate a Forward Ordnance Depot at Kangla Tongbi, a small village on the 117 mile stone on the Manipur-Imphal Road. As the load increased, this depot at Kangla Tongbi was first converted into 56 OFD (Ordnance Field Depot) under the command of Maj Stoker and then in Sep 1943 re-designated as 221 IAOD (Indian Advance Ordnance Depot). This depot was housed in improvised Bashas and tents and functioned at this site till the first of January 1944, when it was further ordered to move from Chittagong to Arakkan Cox’s Bazaar.

Meanwhile the Japanese, who by this time had doubled their forces, started carrying out typically bold and swift operations and captured Cox’s Bazaar. Due to this operational development the move plan of 221 IAOD was changed and it returned back to Kangla Tongbi on 07 Mar 44. The Depot had hardly got its foothold when it was learnt that the Japanese had cut in behind the 17th Indian Division at Tiddim and established themselves firmly on the main Kohima-Manipur highway.

The Depot’s position was not sound from tactical point of view. It was exposed to the enemy and had to rely on its own combatant manpower for its defence. The defences were planned and sited with no help given by any other Garrison or unit.

Maj Boyd, the DCOO was made I/C of the operational plan for the defence of the depot. A suicide squad comprising of himself, Hav/Clk/Store Basant singh, Conductor (a JCO equivalent) Panken and some other personnel was created and tasked to hold the Bridge against the onrushing Japanese. They kept themselves in touch with the enemy’s position and kept the Depot informed so that the defences could be strengthened at selected points from where the enemy was likely to penetrate. By doing so the enemy was kept at bay up to 6th Apr 1944 when orders were received to evacuate all ammunition (4,000 tons) and other important war like stores to another site 2 furlongs down, which offered better defensive position. The old site was evacuated on the night of 6/7 Apr. The enemy occupied the evacuated site the same night.

Night of 6/7 April 1944 was a curse, the Japanese after occupying the old site, mounted a heavy attack on the Depot. Apart from keeping heavy pressure that night, the enemy made a downhill attack from the hill side where a deep nallah was used as a covered approach to the depot. A very well camouflaged bunker had been sited by the depot on this approach with an excellent view of the nallah. The Bren Gun Section positioned in this bunker having spotted a section of the enemy within range opened fire. This shook the enemy and forced them to withdraw leaving many dead. The Bren Gun was manned by Hav/Clk/Store Basant Singh and another OR.

For this gallantry act, Maj Boyd DCOO and Conductor Panken were awarded MC and MM respectively and Hav/ Clk/ Store Basant Singh got IDSM.

On 8 Apr (Good Friday) a retreat to the “KEEP” at Imphal 18 miles down was ordered. The depot personnel withdrew from forward positions and the withdrawal was completed by late at night.

It was here that the Ordnance personnel, whose duties were purely of technical nature, took up arms and fought like good soldiers and side by side carried out their normal duties issuing stores to dependent units without any other civil or military labour available. Not only that, they handled the back loading of all warlike stores and ammunition and set fire to other bulky redundant clothing etc, to prevent it from falling in enemy hands. As the Line of Communication of Japanese was very long and they always lived of the land occupied, it was most important to destroy all such logistic support which would affect their sustenance.

To keep the memory of our heroic battle alive a memorial was unveiled at ‘KANGLA TONGBI’on 15 Apr 1946. The monument surmounted by the IAOC and RAOC badges bears the following inscription:- “Erected by the DOS INDIA and members of the RAOC and IAOC in the memory of the officers and men who gave their lives in the MANIPUR/IMPHAL areas during the years 1942-45 of the Second World War.”

With passage of time, the memorial at Kangla Tongbi innumerable damages desecration at the hands of vandals. The proposal for shifting the Memorial to suitable site was mooted by the Imperial War Graves Commmission and the Director of Ordnance Services (UK). The request was taken up during the General Committee Meeting of Regimental Association on 17 Apr 1974. Three sites viz., 222 ABOD, AOC Centre and AOC School (now College of Materials Management) were considered. AOC School was finally selected as the suitable site and memorial was shifted to Jabalpur on 27 Dec 1976 and re-erected at College of Materials Management on 20 Feb 1982.