Battle of Imphal 1944 - [British Forces - Japanese Forces]

By : Neha Dhyani

Updated : Apr 8, 2022, 9:13

The Battle of Imphal played a decisive role in shaping the history of Indian politics and is a key World War 2 battle. It was fought between the Allied (British) Forces and Japanese forces at Imphal in Manipur, a Northeast Indian state. The period of the battle was between 8th March and 18th July 1944.

The British forces successfully thwarted the Japanese armies' attempts to invade India and inflicted severe damage to the Japanese Army. Read on to learn about the history and aftermath of the Battle of Imphal.

Battle of Imphal - History

The Battle of Imphal took place between the Allied Forces and the Japanese Army between 8th March and 18th July 1944. Imphal is the capital city of the Indian state Manipur in the Northeast. The Japanese Army came from the Burmese side and collided with the British at the Battle of Imphal. It was also one of the deadliest battles ever fought between the Japanese and the British. While the Japanese side lost almost 53,000 soldiers, the Allies lost a little over 12,600 soldiers. The Japanese losses were largely due to starvation, exhaustion, and disease.

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Battle of Imphal - Events and Outcome

The Battle of Imphal began with the Japanese 15th Army's March towards India's Northeast, intending to halt the British-planned invasion of Burma. Their primary intention was to capture and occupy the British supply dumps on Imphal Plain and block access to the road linking Kohima and Dimapur near Kohima. In addition, the capturing of Imphal would give the Japanese the strategic advantage to block air supplies to China. Also, an Air Base at Imphal would make it relatively easy to conduct air attacks against British-occupied India.

The plan to attack the British at Imphal was taken by Lieutenant-General Renya Mutaguchi (1888-1966), who had extensive experience in campaigns against the Allied Forces in China, Singapore, and Malaya. He commanded three Japanese Army divisions and one Indian National Army division.

While the Japanese side approached the battle with 3 Infantry Divisions, 1 Tank Regiment and 2 Indian regiments, the British side was supported by 4 Infantry Divisions, 1 Armoured Brigade, and 1 Parachute Brigade. The British-Indian forces were governed by Lieutenant-General William Slim, who was the Commander of the Fourteenth Army. 

Soon after the battle began, the Japanese made fast progress. By 29th March, they had successfully cut off the Kohima-Imphal road besides surrounding the 17th Division. Moreover, they isolated Kohima, a hilltop town. By mid-April, they had everything under their control except the central ridge.

However, the Japanese could not retain control over the captured area despite trying hard. The primary reason was the British Royal Air Force, which carried supplies to forward battalions. In fact, the Royal Air Force evacuated around 13,000 casualties, besides supplying over 12,000 soldiers and 19,000 tons of supplies. This tilted the battle in favour of the Japanese.

The biggest loser in the Battle of Imphal was clearly the Japanese. They could have conveniently withdrawn long ago had they wanted, but due to Mutagachi's strong belief that the Japanese forces could survive on the captured supplies, he did not order a retreat. Acute starvation and lack of supplies led to the death of as many as 53,000 soldiers of a contingent of 85,000 soldiers. The British, however, were far less wounded. Their total number of casualties was 12,500.

The Battle of Imphal played a decisive role in consolidating and strengthening the British power in India. It also gave a reason to advance and recapture Burma from the Japanese.

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FAQ on Battle of Imphal

Q.1) Who won the Battle of Imphal?

The Allied (British) forces wrestled a decisive win in the Battle of Imphal.

Q.2) Who fought in the Battle of Imphal?

The Battle of Imphal was fought between the Imperial Japanese Army and British Indian forces at Imphal in 1944.

Q.3) When did the Battle of Imphal take place?

The Battle of Imphal took place between the Allied Forces and the Japanese Army between 8th March and 18th July 1944.

Q.4) What are the casualty figures of the Battle of Imphal?

While the Japanese side lost almost 53,000 soldiers, the Allies lost a little over 12,600 soldiers.