Photographing the Kohima Veterans
I was delighted to be commissioned by the Kohima Educational Trust recently to shoot their annual memorial event. Attended by HRH Prince Andrew, Duke of York, this takes place at a memorial which sits in the grounds of York Minster, and pays homage to the brave soldiers who fought at Kohima.
Kohima, in North East India near the border with Myanmar (Burma), was the site of an epic battle in the war against Japan. In fact it was one of the crucial battles of World War II.
In April 1944 the town was besieged by a Japanese division spearheading what they hoped would be the invasion of India.
The defenders, 1500 men of the Royal West Kents, the Assam Regiment and the Assam Rifles, held out for two weeks until relieved by their comrades of the 2nd British Division. The ensuing battle, fought at close quarters for two months, was the first defeat of the Japanese by the British army, and a turning point in the war in Asia.
My role for the day was to capture the atmosphere of the annual event, photograph the arrival of Prince Andrew, and photograph him meeting and chatting with the veterans. This was all done behind closed doors, but meant I also heard the stories of the men as they chatted with the Duke.
I then photographed the service itself, including the moving laying of wreaths:
A flypast by a Hurricane brought the service to a close.
Back behind closed doors, I had chance to photograph the more relaxed lunch, and get some portraits of the veterans:
This wasn't a case of turning up on the day and hoping for the best however. I attended several meetings with the Trust to find out exactly what they needed, and I visited the venue several times to check light conditions, and to photograph the memorial being prepared.
On the day, I set up a mobile studio to photograph the veterans and worked with the Trust to ensure all speeches and key moments were covered.
I've photographed all sorts of portraits, for actors, politicians, business-people, musicians and everything in-between, but photographing these gentlemen was a real highlight.
To find out more about the Kohima Educational Trust, visit their website here.