The Royal British Legion has announced its plans to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day on Saturday 15th August. On this significant anniversary the Legion is encouraging the public to remember and recognise all those who served and sacrificed in the Far East and ultimately brought an end to the Second World War.
Through its programme of activity the Legion will be shining a spotlight on the stories of British and Commonwealth Tri-Service Forces, highlighting the forgotten history of those who fought in the conflict and the atrocious and harrowing conditions in which they served and were held prisoner.
To inspire people to participate in VJ Day 75, the charity has launched an interactive map on its website to show the range of nations that service personnel came from and also share the stories of those who lived through the conflict. On Saturday 15th August the charity is holding a commemorative Service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and encouraging the public to take part in a national moment of Remembrance.
A Two Minute Silence will take place at 11am and will be the focal point of the commemorative service at the National Memorial Arboretum. The Legion is inviting the public to join in the silence remotely from home or share in the moment on BBC One. The commemorations will pay tribute to the service and sacrifice of the thousands of Armed Forces personnel, civilians and family members who contributed to victory in the Far East, and recognise the horrors they endured.
The Legion has worked in partnership with UK Government and the BBC to stage the socially-distanced commemorations at the NMA, home to numerous memorials to those who served in the Far East, including the Burma Railway Memorial and the Far East Prisoners of War Memorial Building. A small number of veterans and descendants of those who fought in the Far East will be able to attend the service, supported by the Legion’s welfare team, whilst others can follow the proceedings on BBC One.
The interactive map and VJ Day 75 storytelling hub aim to provide a further way for the public to participate remotely and encourage people to learn more about this part of history. Available on the Legion’s website, members of the public can read stories and personal accounts from those who experienced the conflict first-hand and leave their own messages of thanks to the Second World War generation.
The Royal British Legion’s Assistant Director of Commemorative Events, Bob Gamble OBE, said: “As we mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day we are inviting the public to take this opportunity to honour the contributions of all who served and sacrificed in the Far East. We recognise the enormous bravery of the Tri-Service personnel who came from across Europe, Africa, Asia, North America and Australasia to form one of the most multicultural forces in history, many of whom faced some of the harshest conditions of the Second World War.
“Those serving with the British Forces in the Far East came from diverse backgrounds and cultures and much of the UK’s modern day multiculturism can be traced back to this period of history. Whilst the contribution of Commonwealth forces is talked about more than it used to be, on this significant anniversary, we want to take this opportunity to go further in ensuring that all who served are fully recognised and to inspire the general public to find out more about this vital part of our shared heritage and the impact it had on our lives today.
“We are encouraging as many people as possible to take part in the VJ Day 75 commemorations in whatever way they wish, whether that be by participating in the Two Minute Silence at home, or leaving a message on our dedicated map to ensure the veterans of the Far East are never forgotten.”
Captain Sir Tom Moore, a veteran of the Burma campaign, said; “For me VJ Day will always be the most special of days, remembering all those who served in such challenging conditions in the Far East. It was VJ Day when the pain of war could finally start to fall away as peace was declared on all fronts.
“I respectfully ask Britain to stop whatever it is doing and take some time to remember. We must all take the time to stop, think and be thankful that were it not for the ultimate sacrifices made all those years ago by such a brave band of men and women we would not be enjoying the freedoms we have today, even in these current difficult times.”
Within its original programme of activity, the Legion had planned to take veterans back to the Far East on tours of Remembrance, including visits to sites in North East India, Burma, Thailand and Singapore. As the tours are no longer possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic the Legion has partnered with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to lay crosses on the headstones of fallen comrades in CWGC cemeteries in the Far East on behalf of those veterans who were due to attend.
In 1943, Joseph Hammond was drafted from Ghana to fight with the 82nd Division in Burma. He joined the war in the Far East when he was just 18 years old.
Joseph said: “On the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day I will be remembering all my comrades who fought with me in the Far East. Many of us were away from home for several years not knowing what was happening elsewhere in the war and hearing little or nothing from our families. I would like to pay tribute to all those who fought in the Far East in extremely tough conditions against a very formidable enemy. On VJ Day I will be thinking of those who made it home and those who didn’t.”
Members of the public can access the full programme of activities, view the interactive map, leave a message of thanks or upload their own experience of VJ Day at www.rbl.org.uk/vjday75
One in six people over the age of 75 is a veteran of the British Armed Forces. The Legion supports this generation through care services including residential homes and support to help them live independently in their homes for as long as possible.
Read the Pathfinder VJ Day 75 Special Issue HERE