Butterflies from World War II - A Soldier’s Collection

August 28, 2017

As compiled by Sukanta Das - Certified Naturalist.

World War II reminds us of a time, smitten with violence that shook the existence of human kind. This is, however, a very different story from the battled field-Location: India. Lewis Gray a signals operator with 2nd Division of the British army were ordered with the assignment of re-taking Burma. Their convoy was stopped for several days by the 80th milestone on the road from Dimapur to Imphal.

One afternoon during the years of 1942, when off duty, he climbed the adjacent hillside and was thrown into a visual treat- a world of fluttering butterflies. Fatigued by the long drawn war that decays the mental peace- Mr. Gray developed a passion towards the butterflies and started collecting them in cigarette packets.

The war went on with its spiteful ire-as the world was crumbling down. Mr. Gray managed to save his collection until the end of the campaign and successfully brought it back to London. A soldier, fighting the greatest war of history was made to remember his childhood in agricultural England (Huntingdonshire) when their fields were covered in butterflies in summer through the sudden found winged treasure in India.

Later, when his grand-daughter preserved the collection and approached me to identify the same on one of her visit to South India. After examining the samples, here are the identified butterflies for your viewing pleasure! 


Crimson Rose Pachliopta Hector Plain Tiger Danaus Chrysippus
Common Jezebel Delias Eucharis Common Jezebel Delias Eucharis
Common Jay Graphium Doson Common Crow Euploea Core


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