VJ Day commemorations: WWII planes and Red Arrows soar over UK to remember ‘forgotten army’ on 75th anniversary
The Prince of Wales says veterans of the Far East Campaign deserve our “most heartfelt and undying gratitude”.
Flypasts by the Red Arrows and vintage Second World War aircraft have been part of poignant commemorations to honour those who fought in Far East.
Tributes to veterans and those who lost their lives have been led by Prince Charles on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, saying they should be “respected, thanked and cherished”.
And a two-minute silence was held, marked by the sounding of the Last Post at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Although VE Day (Victory in Europe Day) arrived just over three months earlier, it was not until 15 August 1945 that the Second World War finally came to an end with the surrender of Japan.
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In a pre-recorded speech broadcast on Saturday night, the Duke of Cambridge spoke of how his great-grandfather, King George VI, had addressed the nation as “the most catastrophic conflict in mankind’s history came to an end”.
In his speech aired on Saturday evening, William said: “As he marked the moment the world had long prayed for, King George expressed his pride in the international effort from across the Commonwealth and allied nations which secured success in the Asia-Pacific region.
“We are forever grateful to all those who fought alongside us.
“It is hard for us to imagine what Victory over Japan Day must have felt like at the time; a mix of happiness, jubilation, and sheer relief, together with a deep sadness and overwhelming sense of loss for those who would never return home.
“Today we remember those who endured terrible suffering and honour all those who lost their lives.”
Charles, who laid wreaths with the Duchess of Cornwall at the arboretum, said those who fought in the Far East had been labelled “the forgotten army“.
About 40 veterans attended the anniversary VJ Day service.
Richard Day, 93, who was involved in the decisive Battle of Kohima in northeast India, said the worst part was “crossing rivers at night”, then going through the small hours in wet clothes with wet equipment.
He said the Japanese were “very determined for their emperor” and “didn’t appear to have any fear at all”.
More than 71,000 British and Commonwealth troops died in the Far East campaign, including 13,000 who lost their lives in Japanese prisoner of war camps, where conditions were brutal.
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In a speech, the Prince of Wales said many of the “soldiers, nurses and other personnel felt anger and disappointment at how they were treated when they finally returned home from a war which, from the public’s point of view, had ended on the 8th May 1945 (VE Day)”.
He added: “Let us affirm, they and serving veterans are not forgotten, rather you are respected, thanked and cherished with all our hearts and for all time.”
Boris Johnson read the Exhortation before a two-minute silence, which was followed by a Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flypast, involving three Spitfires, a Hurricane and a Lancaster bomber.
In a letter to veterans, the prime minister said: “You fought for freedom, brought the Second World War to its end, and restored peace and prosperity to the world. On this anniversary, and every day hereafter, you will be remembered.”
In a statement, the Queen mentioned the “joy at the end of the conflict”, but also remembered the “terrible devastation that it brought”.
The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, served in the Second World War as a naval officer, and will feature alongside other veterans on a number of large screens across the UK, in a photo montage showing veterans today and when they served.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News that those who fought were coping with “horrendous conditions” and it was “time to remember what they did”.
Mr Wallace added that four million people from the Commonwealth and India contributed to the fight.
He said it was a collective effort involving “different nations, different races and different religions”.
The Red Arrows had to cancel a flypast over Edinburgh because of unsuitable conditions. The group’s leader, Martin Pert, tweeted that the weather was “particularly challenging”.
However, flypasts did go ahead elsewhere, including over Prestwick and Belfast.
In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged “never to repeat the tragedy of war” and Emperor Naruhito expressed “deep remorse” over the wartime past.
Veteran Roy Miller, 96, joined the Royal Navy at the age of 15 and served in the gunnery division onboard the aircraft carrier HMS Indomitable in the Far East.
Speaking to Sky News from his Surrey home, he said: “People often ask if I celebrated when it all ended, but it wasn’t joy at all. It was relief. It was an end. It was a feeling of relief that the whole thing was coming to an end and we weren’t going to be shot at any more.”