Britishers Select 'Battle of Imphal 1944'as the Greatest of Five Battles
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Britishers Select 'Battle of Imphal 1944'as the Greatest of Five Battles

In a recent poll , Britishers have voted "Battle of Imphal" as the greatest battle fought by England. The' Battle of Waterloo' which was thought to be number 1 slid to number 2 position.The poll was fascinating and intriguing as it threw up names of battles that do not remain on the common man’s lips. Before the poll the criterion for the contest was defined. The stress was on political and historical impact of the battles and the strategy and tactics employed by the British Army.

History is a subject that both excites as well as elevates. It’s also great fun to read about the great battles of any country. The National Army Museum is a venerable name in London. It recently conducted a poll to evaluate as to which 5 greatest battles are fought by the United Kingdom and the British Empire all over the world.

The poll was fascinating and intriguing as it threw up names of battles that do not remain on the common man’s lips. Before the poll the criterion for the contest was defined. The stress was on political and historical impact of the battles and the strategy and tactics employed by the British Army. Obviously victory in battle was an overriding condition. The battles were also to be visualized in the context of its effect on the Great Britain and the challenges that the British army faced.

As the poll started the general consensus was that “battle of Waterloo’ would be the greatest. Initial results favored this trend and the Battle of Waterloo led. This famous battle where the Duke of Wellington finished the grandiose dreams of Napoleon and the French by defeating them decisively remains popular in British psyche.

At the end of the poll Battle of Waterloo came second behind ‘Battle of Imphal’, which was voted the greatest battle ever fought by England and the British Empire. This battle fought in 1944 pitted the British 8th army under Field Marshal William Slim against the Japanese in a do or die battle. A little known fact is that the 8th army also known as the ‘forgotten army’ consisted not only of British white soldiers, but in large measures of Indian soldiers, notably from the Sikh and Ghurkha communities.

The battle marked the high point of Japanese conquest and after this the tide turned as the siege of Kohima was lifted and the Japanese army after hand to hand fighting pushed back. It was a colossal defeat for the Imperial army as their dreams of an arc of Japanese domination in South East Asia was shattered.

The battle of Imphal was voted the greatest battle in world history in which the British Empire fought. Field Marshal Slim is not glamorized as his counterpart on the Western Front Field Marshal Barnard Montgomery, but in his own way he was perhaps a greater soldier and strategist. He never had the equipment and where with alls available to the British and Montgomery on the western front, yet he won for England their greatest victory.

The other 4 battles make interesting reading. The number 2 position goes to the famous battle of Waterloo (1815) which resulted in making England the dominant power in Europe. Napoleon is supposed to be a great soldier strategist, but his defeat at Waterloo at the hands of the Duke of Wellington puts a question mark as to his military genius.

The third position is occupied by the D day landing of the Allies in Normandy in June 1944. The last two positions have gone to the Rorke’s drift in the 1879 Zulu war and the ‘Battle of Aliwal’ fought against the Sikhs during the Anglo-Sikh war in 1846. Both these battles were game changers, one in Africa and the other In India.

The battle of Aliwal is of great significance as in the earlier battles at Mudki and Ferozeshah the British had been badly mauled by the Sikhs and Lord Hugh Gough the British commander was on the verge of being sacked. In case Aliwal had been lost the British dream of an Indian empire would have been lost. But General Lord Harry Smith snatched a great victory and smashed the Sikhs and laid the foundation of the Raj.

This poll makes interesting reading and one can realize that at one time the sun never set on the British Empire.

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