Lt Jamshed Manekshaw: An unsung hero of World War II
Lt Jamshed Manekshaw (standing left on the second row) on the Burma Front during WWII.
he world knows late Field Marshal Sam Manekshaw as the man who, as the chief of the Indian army in the 1971 Indo-Pakistan War following the Bangladesh Liberation War, made great contributions to the creation of Bangladesh. Sam also fought on the Burma front as a Captain of the 12th Frontier Force and was seriously wounded fighting the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II. But the world is unaware that another Manekshaw –Lt Jamshed Manekshaw (Jimmy)–was also defending the Indian territory against the Japanese invasion in the Dohazari region of the Chittagong front during World War II. While Sam survived the bullet wounds, Jamshed died in action in Dohazari and he became an unsung martyr. Lt Jamshed Manekshaw died on May 14, 1944.
Lt Jamshed belonged to Bulsar in Gujarat state of undivided India and he worked in Kabul in Afghanistan before he joined the Indian army as a commissioned officer. He was sent to fight against the Japanese Imperial forces in the northeast part of India and in the Chittagong’s areas. These areas which were then part of the erstwhile East Bengal are now part of Bangladesh. A large number of Indians, British, Australian and Africans died in action fighting here. Based on their religion the last rites of these brave soldiers were performed in the various war cemeteries built by the British army in the region. They were designated military cemeteries where the martyrs were laid to rest with full military honours. Lt Jamshed Manekshaw belonged to the Parsi community in India; the Parsis are Zoroastrians who fled from Iran to settle down in India. The Parsis who settled down in Gujarat after escaping from Iran facing persecution later spread to various parts of India and excelled in business. They contributed to the economy of undivided India and a few families had businesses in Dhaka and Chittagong too. There was one businessman, Mr Merdhora, who lived in Chittagong then and the British took his help in performing the last rites of Lt Jamshed.
It is believed that his last rites were performed according to the Parsi religion. There were originally 400 burials in these cemeteries and later when the Commonwealth War cemetery was built in Chittagong the graves were transferred to the new cemetery. There are now 731 Commonwealth graves of the 1939-45 war here, 17 of which are unidentified. This cemetery is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission of Britain that funds it.
The Commonwealth war cemetery is situated on the Badsha Meah Road in Chittagong city. The site of the cemetery was originally a paddy field adjacent to a horseshoe-shaped hill spread on the east and south, and located two and a half miles away from the then Chittagong city.
During the Second World War the pioneer camp of the Fourteenth Army of the allied force was set up in Chittagong along with facilities for army training and the British General Hospital. The hospital remained operative from December 1944 to October 1945 and initially, 400 corpses were buried in this cemetery under the supervision of the army.
The burial area is situated at the bottom of a slope directly behind Finlay’s Guest Houses and is surrounded by a large area planted with a mixture of jungle trees, fruit trees and flowering trees. It is not easily seen from the road.
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