VJ Day: UK commemorates 75th anniversary as royals pay tribute


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Media captionThe Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall attended a VJ Day memorial service

The Royal Family are leading UK commemorations on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day – the day WWII ended with the surrender of Japan.

The Prince of Wales led a two-minute silence at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, as part of a memorial service.

The Duke of Edinburgh is also part of the commemorations, appearing in a photo montage with other veterans.

And a message from the Queen thanked those “who fought so valiantly”.

She said, “Those of us who remember the conclusion of the Far Eastern campaign, whether on active duty abroad or while waiting for the news at home, will never forget the scenes. jubilant and overwhelming sense of relief. ”

The Prince of Wales attended the event at the Arboretum with the Duchess of Cornwall.

He laid a wreath at the Kwai Railway Memorial, as a small number of ex-combatants and their relatives sat on benches scattered around the garden, to maintain their social estrangement.

A Battle of Britain Memorial Air Parade also commemorated those who fought.

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In a speech, Prince Charles said veterans service “will resonate through the ages”.

He referred to their description as the Forgotten Army, noting how many soldiers, nurses and other staff felt aggrieved by the way some members of the public associated the end of WWII to victory in Europe in May 1945.

“Let us assert, they and serving veterans are not forgotten, but rather you are respected, thanked and cherished with all our hearts and forever,” he said.

The Prime Minister, who also attended and read the poem The Exhortation before the silence, thanked those who had fought to restore “peace and prosperity”.

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The Duchess of Cornwall chats with a veteran

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Boris Johnson laid a wreath and read the war poem Exhortation – saying ‘they will not grow old’

The Red Arrows – who were scheduled to fly over the capitals of the UK’s four countries – were forced to cancel flights over Edinburgh, Cardiff and London due to poor weather conditions.

They were at least able to fly over Belfast and the pilots encountered three veterans during a stopover in Prestwick, near Glasgow.

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The Red Arrows flew over the hold of the Titanic and the Titanic Museum in Belfast

Throughout the day, large screens in locations across the country feature a photo montage of veterans – each photographed with a picture of themselves from their time on duty.

The montage is also a rare appearance for Prince Philip, 99, who has only been seen a handful of times in public since his retirement in 2017 – most recently for a military event at Windsor Castle.

Prince Philip was a young Royal Navy officer aboard a warship in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered.

Earlier in the morning, Secretary of Defense Ben Wallace was joined by military leaders as he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in London.

Prisoners of war

On August 15, 1945, VJ Day – or Victory over Japan Day – ended one of the worst episodes in British military history, in which tens of thousands of servicemen were forced to endure brutality in the camps. prisoners of war.

It is estimated that there were 71,000 British and Commonwealth victims of the war against Japan, including over 12,000 prisoners of war who died in Japanese captivity. Over 2.5 million Japanese military and civilians are estimated to have died in the conflict.

Fighting in Europe had ended in May 1945, but many Allied servicemen were still fighting Japan in East Asia.

Japan rejected an ultimatum for peace and the United States believed dropping a nuclear bomb would force them to surrender. The United States dropped two atomic bombs on Japan, killing an estimated 214,000 people, and two weeks later, Japan surrendered.

To mark the 75th anniversary, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sent an offering to a controversial war shrine in Tokyo, but did not attend in person.

However, two of his ministers visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where 14 leaders who were later convicted by the Allies as war criminals are commemorated.

During the commemorative event

John Maguire, BBC News

The National Memorial Arboretum seems to lend itself perfectly to the concept of a socially distant memorial service.

The veterans of the Burma campaign, their families and other guests were seated in chairs spaced out on the grass between the trees.

Discussions focused on the multinational and multicultural makeup of the Allied forces that fought the Japanese.

The Gurkhas, alongside the Sikhs, sat alongside the troops of the Welsh and Scottish regiments, representing the 40 nations involved in the Far East.

After sitar music, readings by Asian British actors, and speeches from the descendants of those who fought, the roar of aircraft engines could be heard above. A Lancaster, a Hurricane and three Spitfires from the Battle of Britain Memorial flew over in formation and in tribute.

Then, those who could stand were asked to do so for two minutes of silence.

The Prince of Wales then laid a wreath at the Burma Railway Memorial.

Flowers had been placed between the sleepers and rails that make up the memorial. It was known as the “Death Railway” and 16,000 prisoners of war died during its construction.

It makes for an incongruous but incredibly poignant sight among the granite and brass of other memorials.

Boris Johnson has previously joined other world leaders, including US President Donald Trump, to record a video message thanking the veterans.

In the video, each leader in turn says, “To all who served, we thank you.”

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Defense Secretary Ben Wallace (far right) laid a wreath at the London Cenotaph on Saturday morning

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Mr Johnson added: “On this 75th anniversary of the end of World War II, we pay tribute to the heroes deployed thousands of miles away in the mountains, islands and rainforests of Asia.

“Unable to celebrate victory in Europe, and among the last to return home, today we recognize the courage and ingenuity of those who, in the face of adversity, restored peace and prosperity to the world.

“Their immeasurable sacrifice changed the course of history and, in today’s commemorations, we take the opportunity to say the right things to say every day – thank you. ”

In a letter addressed specifically to Far Eastern veterans, Mr Johnson said: ‘You were the last to return home, but your accomplishments are written in the lights of the glittering capitals of the vibrant region we see today. hui. ”

“All of us who were born after you benefited from your courage in adversity. On this anniversary, and every day thereafter, you will be remembered, ”he added.

Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer also recorded a message, paying homage to ‘the generation of war, who through the horrors of conflict have shown us the spirit and determination that we must always remember and be ever grateful for “.

“It is important that, in the face of today’s challenges, we draw inspiration from this generation,” he said.

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On the 70th anniversary of VJ Day there was a parade in London

Meanwhile, Capt Sir Tom Moore, who took part in the Burma campaign, encouraged the public to join in the commemorations, describing VJ Day as “the most special day”.

‘It was VJ Day when the pain of war could finally start to fade as peace was declared on all fronts,’ said Sir Tom – who has raised millions of pounds for NHS charities walking through his garden during the lockdown.

“I respectfully ask Britain to stop whatever it is doing and take the time to remember it.

What is happening today?

The commemorations began at sunrise, with a bagpiper playing Battle’s Over at the Imperial War Museum’s HMS Belfast in London.

Military bagpipe players has also performed at dawn in India, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal. In Japan, national memorial services were held in Tokyo.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall attended a national remembrance service and led a two-minute silence from the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Mr Johnson read the Exhortation – the part of the war poem beginning “they shall not grow old”. Battle of Britain Memorial Flight flyover also commemorated those who fought.

the Red Arrows performed a flypast over Belfast, but had to cancel plans to fly over London, Edinburgh and Cardiff due to bad weather.

A montage photo starring Prince Philip and other veterans is shown on several big screens across the UK.

On Saturday evening the BBC will broadcast a pre-recorded show from 8:30 p.m. called VJ Day 75: Homage to the Nation, which will tell the story of those who served in the Far East and include a message from Prince William.

The service at the National Memorial Arboretum was broadcast on BBC One between 9:30 am and 11:30 am BST and is available on Iplayer.

VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute will air from 8:30 p.m. BST.

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