IMPHAL, Oct 29 - After remaining unanswered on the whereabouts of a person who went away from home to join World War (WW)-I for about 97 years, his octogenarian niece, a native of Manipur�s Ukhrul district, came to know that the grave of her immediate uncle is in France.
This information was conveyed by Imphal-based World War researcher and cofounder of World War-II Imphal Campaign Foundation Rajeshwar Yumnam to the family members. According to 85-year-old Sonreng Shinglai, a resident of Hundung Khunou village in Ukhrul district, her uncle Putanleng Shinglai left home for WW-I during 1916, barely two months after his marriage and never returns back.
�A fellow villager, who returned home after the war, inform us that our uncle have died and handed a �war medal�, �memorial plaque�, �memorial scroll�, �condolence letter� signed by King George, but he never inform us about his whereabouts,� said Sonreng Shinglai. The family members of Shinglai expressed their desire to visit the grave of the Putanleng to perform his last rites and sought support from the Government to reach the grave in France.
�At least graves of 87 people from Manipur, who took part in WW-I as members of the Labour Corps, are found in war cemeteries across Europe and most of them are in France, Italy, UK and Yemen,� World War researcher Rajeshwar said, adding �In April 1917, the Manipur Labour Corps, with a strength of 2,000 people from the State, were sent to Europe by sea from Mumbai.�
Being non-combatants, they were engaged in transportation of arms and ammunition, digging trenches, cleaning military camps, running errands and construction of temporary camps, Rajeshwar said. They were sent after an agreement was signed between the then Manipur king Churachand Singh and British political agent Lt Col HWG Cole, he added. British Government had even honoured King Churachand with the title Knight Commander Star for the help.
Sharing the details of cemetery location, war researcher Rajeshwar based on the information he had collected, said Putanleng, a war labourer passes away on April 5, 1918, in France may be due to flu, laid his grave at St Sever Cemetery Extension which is a suburb of Le Grand Quellive and Le Petit Quevilly, France.