Hamilton’s Bridge: The Gone Priceless WW2 Bridge from Heingang

Hamilton’s Bridge: The Gone Priceless WW2 Bridge from Heingang

TMB Report

IMPHAL: So many monuments, bridges, buildings built hundreds of years across the countries are discovered and have been preserved and have been termed as world heritage sites.

Being a big world, many such monuments, bridges, buildings are far from discovery and human with new technologies are on the hunt for them so that they could preserve them for future generation to study how the world were over hundreds of years ago.

Unfortunately, for a state like Manipur where one of the biggest battle in the history was ever fought did not seem to know how to differentiate which type of monuments, bridges, buildings are to be preserved and which are to be demolished.

During the WW2, a fierce battle took place in Imphal, which the world knows as “Battle of Imphal”, where the Japanese and British Soldiers fought against each other.

During the battle, the British built a bridge called “Hamilton’s Bridge” at Heingang and this bridge is not like other bridges that are built in Manipur. This is a bridge built in “One Night” and even after the 76th years of the end of the WW2, people of Heingang still tells the tale of how the bridge was built and what it was like.

In June of 2017, I went to visit the bridge, but I was left with shock, “The bridge build in one night was dismantled. One end of the bridge had fallen into the river, while the other end was holding on, like a crane is on its way to pull away the whole bridge in a few seconds.”

Could anyone imagine to built or see such a bridge again in their lifetime?

Despite technology developed and with many experienced engineers, it’s impossible to built a bridge in one night like the “Hamilton’s Bridge”.

“This is what they did to the bridge built in one night during World War 2 on April 5/6, 1944; a 73 year old British built bridge, easily shattered down, now it’s not there anymore”, said locals of Heingang

We humans do love to hear about ancient history, but we also do know that we humans aren’t always that great at preserving it. Here is the most thoughtless and dumbest way that humans have wrecked their own heritage.

In a global economy, shared history is about capital, about control over who makes the money while many are struggling to preserve our vast heritages from those who couldn’t care less. However, most of the historic town and various bridges, a masterpiece designed by the famous architect have been destroyed.

Likewise, the Hamilton’s Bridge, built during World War 2 (1944-1945) used to stand unharm or corroded is now destroyed by some reckless invaders who only think about today.

When we’re talking of preserving a site (doesn’t mean only nature and culture), unfortunately in our country, the legal framework is very archaic. Worldwide, a whole regime exists, of protocols and recommendations to preserve a site which terms as heritage, but, unfortunately, our legal and planning instruments do not take cognizance of such things.

Now when we’ve chosen to globalise and the private sector is generating a lot of fund and has a lot to invest in public assets, we should be looking at protection in terms of potential public-private partnerships (PPPs). But our instruments of planning, of equity, all the things we need to worry about, are not being adequately developed so far.

Is this how we treat what our ancestors have left to be witnessed and talked about for generations?

A crematorium has been constructed where once the “Hamilton’s Bridge” stood bold and proudly except its unvarnished trail mark.

During the Second World War “The Hamilton Bridge” built between Heingang and Achanbengei (British record)/Achanbigei was one of bridges constructed in Manipur as a passes route by the Allied forces.

These particular bridge has a very unique story which could be heard from the locals of the Heingang and Achanbengei(british record)/Achanbigei area and even from many people of Manipur, till today. But for the future generation, the story will remain as a story, with the bridge no more, they will not be able to see the fact of the story they heard from their parents, grandparents.

After my visit in June, 2017, the issue was brought to the public where some contractors or government workers already began to tear down the aged old bridge during the WW2.

Yet none came up to put hold on the ongoing destruction work of the bridge not even the Chief Minister himself where the bridge destruction work is going on is in his constituency (Heingang A/C).

Even after 3 years, no concern government department has put up even a sign board or hording which indicates that the “Hamilton’s Bridge” was once there.

The facts I could get is that the metal bars and rods of the bridge was sold out by some ill mindset persons for just few rupees on scrapped.

Upon contacting some department officials, they had no answers why the years old bridge was remove and sold out; all they answered was because a new bridge have been constructed, the old bridge is no more of use, that’s why they had to dismantled and remove the bridge.

In India, we don’t have a policy for PPPs. Especially in the sector of public good, the government shouldn’t be encouraged to put assets out in the market without taking responsibility for the kind of plans they produce. A lot of heritage projects end up in court because so many scams today are related to land and property.

Conservation and protection isn’t just about the Hamilton Bridge, it’s about protecting the whole ethos. Though the workers work under the command of higher authority, do we need to bang the door of the concern government?

Does the state government not care about preserving a heritage site or just cared about using fund in the wrong way by destroying what our forefather has left for us?

“Pumudra ariba thong asi nungsi nungsina sidokhre do” locals remain still with teary eyes, watching the bridge being snatched down piece by piece, right in front of their naked eyes.

One who knows the value of a priceless items, for them it is very unfortunate seeing the bridge being snatched away piece by piece instead of preserving it as heritage site for our future generation.

Is it not our duty to preserve what is precious for our state, to understand it, learn from it rather than destroying?

Shouldn’t the state government and the concern department take up necessary strong steps to save such heritage site from being destroyed forever rather than seeing as a photos or hearing as a tale in the near future.

“One can hear the tale of the bridge being built in one night of April 5/6 of 1944 by 56 British Engineers from 58 Company Royal Engineers under the command of Lieutenant D G Jones. They were in Lion Box and were sent to a camp near where the bridge was erected. The Hamilton Bridge built between Heingang and Achanbengei (british record)/Achanbigei also connects the Airfield at Koirengei with the IV Corps HQ at Keep or Mongjam/Heingang area.”

It’s been more than 73 years since the Hamilton Bridge was built and for the tourist and for the world, it is the very example for Manipur state to be proud of. It also shows the world how technology was so advance during the WW2 compare to today’s generation.

Unfortunately, there is no more “Hamilton’s Bridge” to show to the world, except for the photographs that had been taken while it was there.

The government needs to make a list of heritage site and grade them as grade 1, 2 and 3 as grading is a way of working out the kind of interventions that are permissible. Once we have graded sites, we can go forward and make plans for them.

“World Heritage sites are designated by the UN as places of outstanding universal value which should be protected for future generations but according to a study from the experts, urbanisation, farming, industry and deforestation are having an increasing impact on them.”

Before it’s too late, something need to be done to save the rest of the sites which can be put into the heritage list or else their famous story will remain as a story like the Hamilton Bridge, for the rest of the history.

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