Nation gathers to mark 65th anniversary of VJ Day

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Services have been held around the UK to mark the 65th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day.

The Prince of Wales and Prime Minister David Cameron joined veterans at the Cenotaph in London to mark the loss of almost 30,000 UK lives in the Far East.

Mr Cameron said Britain must never forget the sacrifices made by those who served in World War II.

He said they had fought in "ferocious conditions" and "witnessed incomprehensible horrors".

RAF veteran Peter Proctor, from Southport, Merseyside, was among those who took part in the service at the Cenotaph.

Reunion of comrades

The 88-year-old, who saw service in Africa and India, before joining 11 Squadron in Burma, said it was important to remember the sacrifice of the so-called Forgotten Army.

"When the war ended in Europe there were great celebrations, people were saying the war is over, but it was still going on in the Far East," he said.

Image caption,
Arthur Lane was captured by the Japanese in Singapore in 1942

Fellow RAF serviceman Ray Shaw, 87, from Preston, Lancashire, said: "The event today is a good thing, it's given us the chance to meet our comrades, there's only a few left now, and see our own generation again."

Members of the public also joined the Whitehall event to pay their respects.

The service began with prayers, followed by the Last Post sounded by The Buglers of The Band of Her Majesty's Royal Marines, Commando Training Centre Royal Marines.

Viscount John Slim, President of the Burma Star Association, read the Kohima Epitaph: "When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our day."

Of the hundreds of thousands who fought, 12,500 died in Japanese prison camps.

Speaking ahead of the Cenotaph service, Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We must never forget the sacrifices made and the dedication showed by those who served our country in the Second World War.

"They lost their lives - and many were imprisoned. And they did all this for us - to protect the freedoms we all enjoy today.

"VJ Day, the day the Second World War ended, is a time for this generation to reflect and show its gratitude to our veterans for their bravery, dedication and sacrifice."

Representatives of the three military services and veterans of the conflict took part in the service in London, organised by the Ministry of Defence and Burma Star Association.

Enduring memories

Another remembrance service was held at Christ the King Church in Liverpool.

Among the veterans who attended was Arthur Lane, who was taken prisoner by the Japanese in Singapore in 1942.

He said those who returned home carried with them memories of mistreatment and loss, some of them particularly shocking.

"One of my closest friends... he wanted a smoke when he should have been working and the Japanese guards and the Koreans stuffed his mouth with cigarettes and (put them) up his nose and his ears and pushed him into the fire to light the cigarettes.

"He didn't last five minutes. That is the type of thing we saw."

British National Party leader Nick Griffin was also at the service in Liverpool. He told the BBC he was not aiming to politicise the event and had been invited to attend.

A service was also held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.

In Belfast, hundreds of people gathered near City Hall to watch 14 veterans take part in a march organised by the Burma Star Association.

Chief of the General Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, said: "The Second World War in the Far East began with a series of defeats which rank among the grimmest memories of the British Army, and which caused many thousands of British and Commonwealth troops to suffer captivity in conditions we can scarcely comprehend.

"But in 1944 one of the greatest of all British commanders, the much-loved Bill Slim, effected an extraordinary resurrection.

"First at Imphal and Kohima, then in his 1945 drive back into Burma, he led Fourteenth Army's British, Indian and African soldiers to an historic victory.

"The achievement of Slim and his men, and the sacrifice of those who suffered and died for the Allied cause in Asia, remains today one of the most honoured memories of the British army."

The Fourteenth Army - dubbed the Forgotten Army - was the largest British Empire and Commonwealth Army ever assembled, numbering over half a million.

The Japanese surrendered on 14 August 1945 after the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The next day was celebrated as VJ Day.

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