ROBINSON James Thomas

James Thomas ROBINSON 1909 – 1944

1738058 Gunner James Thomas Robinson, 55 Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery died 30 May 1944 aged 35.  He is buried at Gauhati War Cemetery, Assam, NE India [1] and commemorated on West Auckland War Memorial.

Family Details

James Thomas Robinson was born 4 April 1909 [2] the son of Frank and Rose Robinson.  In 1934, James Robinson married Alice Louisa Alderson.[3]  In 1939, James and Alice lived at Bildershaw, West Auckland with probably 3 children [records officially closed].  James worked as a general labourer for the major railway company, London North East Railway [L.N.E.R.]. [4]

Service Details

The service details of Gunner James Robinson have not been researched.  The war diaries for the Regiment have not been researched therefore the circumstances surrounding Gunner J. Robinson’s death remain unknown.

9 August 1943: the 55th Anti-aircraft/Anti-tank Regiment, RA was formed and served with the 20th Indian Infantry Division but actual conversion of the batteries did not occur until around March 1944.  There was a shortage of 20mm Hispano guns.[5]

The Battle of Imphal and Kohima 8 March – 18 July 1944 [6]

These battles were the turning point in one of the most gruelling campaigns of the Second World War.  The decisive defeat of the Japanese in NE India was the springboard for the Fourteenth Army’s re-conquest of Burma.

The context for the battles, stems from the Japanese attack on the US naval base at Pearl Harbour, Hawaii and its subsequent invasion of European colonies across East Asia including the British territories of Hong Kong, Malaya, Singapore and Burma.  In January 1942, Japan invaded Burma and by March its capital and major port Rangoon had been taken.  As the Japanese pushed northwards, the British and Allied troops fought a 1000 mile retreat to India.

November 1943: Following the formation of South East Asia Command [SEAC] under Admiral Lord Louis Mountbatten, the war took on a new energy.

March 1944: The Japanese 15th Army advanced against the NE Indian border to forestall a planned British offensive into Burma.  They intended to capture the British supply bases on the Imphal Plain and cut the road linking Dimapur and Imphal at Kohima.  This would give them a base from which to conduct air attacks against India.  A Japanese diversionary attack in the Arakan was defeated at the Battle of Admin Box then in early April, Kohima and Imphal were the focus of attention.

Lieutenant-General Geoffrey Scoones commanded the IV Corps at Imphal which included the 17th 20th and 23rd Indian Divisions and later, the 5th Indian Division.

Imphal was the capital of Manipur state and lay in a plain surrounded by hills and was the main British base in the area.  The 20th Indian Infantry Division under Major-General Douglas Gracey occupied Tamu, 110 kms [86 miles] south east of Imphal.[7]  The Japanese made several attacks against Imphal’s defensive perimeter particularly on the Nungshigum heights and in the Palel area but the 5th 17th 20th and 23rd Indian Divisions held firm.  The Allies logistical and communications superiority were key.  During the battle, the RAF flew in nearly 19,000 tons of supplies and over 12,000 men and evacuated around 13,000 casualties.  The Allies threw back the Japanese attacks until relief forces reached them.

The Japanese 15th Army, 85,000 strong eventually lost 53,000 dead and missing.  The British sustained 12,500 casualties at Imphal, while fighting at Kohima cost another 4,000 casualties.

The defensive victory led to a new offensive aimed at clearing the Japanese from northern Burma and driving them south towards Mandalay and on towards Rangoon.  The was retaken by the Allies in early May 1945.

Burial [8]

Gunner James Thomas Robinson is buried at grave reference 30.5.44, Gauhati War Cemetery.  His headstone bears the following epitaph:

In Memory of my Dear Husband

Remembered by Wife and Children

Gauhati War Cemetery was started in the Second World War for burials from several military hospitals and other graves were brought in from several cemeteries Amari Bari, Sylhet, Mohachara, Nowgong, isolated burials in the Lushai Hills and civil cemeteries. There are 468 Commonwealth servicemen buried here, 25 unidentified, 24 Chinese war graves and 2 non-war graves.


[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.300 1909Q2 Auckland & 1939 England & Wales Register

[3] England & Wales Marriage Index 1916-2005 Vol.10a p.424 1934Q2 Auckland

[4] 1939 England & Wales Register




[8] CWGC