Robert T Reeves, Honorary Secretary/PRO of the Royal Naval Association Hull Branch attended the VJ Day commemorations in London on Saturday 15 August 2015. He accompanied Far East veteran George Palmer, Shipmate of the 'Sea Scout' submarine.
Here is what Robert wrote about VJ Day in the Royal Naval Association Hull Branch newsletter.
“When you go home, tell them of us, and say,
For your tomorrow, we gave our today”
For Shipmate George R Palmer and all the other combatants of the Pacific Campaign, “In recognition of their duty in the face of a ruthless enemy”
This month commemorates the 70th Anniversary of the ending of the War in the Pacific, and therefore the end of WW2. The Japanese surrendered on 14th August 1945 following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Soviet declaration of war and invasion of Manchuria. The next day, Wednesday 15th August 1945, was celebrated as Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day). Japan formally surrendered on 2nd September at a ceremony in Tokyo Bay on board USS Missouri. Victory was total, but it came at a high price. Britain suffered 90,332 casualties in the war against Japan of whom 29,968 died, 12,433 whilst prisoners of war. Men and women from all over the British Empire and Commonwealth made a vital contribution to the Allied Victory over Japan, including the Indian Army, the Royal Indian Navy and Air Force. Australians fought in Malaya and New Guinea, Canadians at Hong Kong and in the Aleutians, New Zealanders in the Solomons and other Pacific Islands. South African troops helped capture the Vichy French island of Madagascar to prevent it falling into Japanese hands.
The British Pacific Fleet joined the US Navy in the Pacific Islands campaign and ships and men of the Australian, New Zealand and Canadian navies were actively involved against the Imperial Japanese Navy. The Royal Navy and Royal Marines provided vital assistance in the provision of landing craft, minesweeping, gunfire support and other duties. Numerous British Submarines were patrolling the majority of the pacific and were prevalent in many actions during the campaign. One such Submarine was “Sea Scout”, on board was our own torpedo man, S/M George “Pedlar” Palmer. I was asked and very honoured to escort George to the VJ 70 Day Commemorations in London on Saturday 15th August 2015. The entire day was totally amazing. It started when we arrived at Hull Station for our 0823 train to Kings Cross. I had previously emailed for passenger assistance, and boy did we get it.
We were taken onboard and put in 1st Class accommodation, with all the trimmings, and we settled down for a pleasant journey. I had emailed the London Taxi Charity for Disabled War Veterans and received a reply from their boss, stating that he would be waiting at Kings Cross Station for us and lead us to a VJ 70 Taxi. En-route he informed us that ITN would like to interview George, which they did inside the taxi on our way to Horse Guards. On arrival at Horse Guards we were met by various members of the British Legion who directed us to where we picked up our accreditation bracelets and id cards and then proceeded to our seats in readiness for the Service. A very helpful policewoman assisted us across Horse Guards (have you ever tried pushing a wheelchair across half and inch or so of sand and shale).
The arrival of HRH’s Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall was the starting point, followed by a flypast of a Dakota and Hurricane of the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight, and Swordfish from the Royal Navy Historic Flight, joined by a current RAF Typhoon. Welcome’s and hymns were said and sung during which a Ceremonial Drumhead was assembled.
There was and extract from Field Marshal Viscount Slim’s Memoirs, read by The Viscount Slim OBE DL, President of the Burma Star Association. “Mandalay” by Rudyard Kipling was read by Mr Charles Dance. A reading from Isaiah came from John Riggs, Vice President of the Burma Star Association, and Colour Sergeant John Naylor of 1st Batt The Royal Anglian Regiment.
A second reading from John 15, came from Philip Knatchbull, the grandson of Admiral of the Fleet Earl Mountbatten of Burma.
The FEPOW Prayer written by Cpl A E Ogden and V Merrett was read by Mrs Barbara Anslow, a civilian internee at the Stanley civilian internment camp in Hong Kong.
The Hymn “Abide with me” was followed by the act of remembrance and the exhortation.
Followed by a Pipers Lament “Flowers of the Forest”, followed by the Kohima Epitaph read by The Viscount Slim OBE DL.
Wreaths were laid by HRH The Prince of Wales on behalf of the nation, the Prime Minister on behalf of Her Majesty’s Government, and the National Chairman of the Royal British Legion Mr John Crisford with Mr John Giddings on behalf of the Veterans.
More prayers and hymns during which the Drumhead was dismantled, followed by the final blessing and the National Anthem.
Participants in Sunday’s service were:- Charles Dance who is an English Actor, screenwriter and film director. He recently starred in The Imitation Game, about how English mathematician and logician Alan Turing helped crack the Enigma code during the Second World War.
Military Bands :- Music provided by 3 Armed Services Bands, including the Band of Her Majesty’s Royal Marines Portsmouth, the Band of the Coldstream Guards, and the Band of the Royal Air Force Regiment. They performed under the direction of Lt Colonel Nick Grace, the Principal Director of Music for the Royal Marines Band Service.
Soldiers from 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Scotland provided Pipes and Drums. Each battalion of the Regiment has its own Band of Pipes and Drums manned by soldiers who receive their musical training at the Army School of Bagpipe Music and Highland Drumming in Edinburgh.
The Lone Piper in the service was from the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles. The Royal Gurkha Rifles currently have a jungle role Battalion permanently based in Brunei and a Light Role Battalion in the UK.
Choirs :- The London Welsh Male Voice Choir has an illustrious history, entertaining audiences for more than 100 years. The choir has performed at concert halls and cathedrals worldwide. BBC News presenter Huw Edwards is the choir’s president.
The Gwalia Male Choir has a repertoire including traditional Welsh hymns and folk tunes, choruses from opera and musicals, spirituals and pop tunes. Formed in 1967, the choir is in high demand for public concerts, cabarets, weddings, recordings, radio and television appearances.
The Parade…..Forming up on Horse Guards was a feat in itself with so many wheelchairs and veterans who were slowly walking with the aid of sticks and their family members or carers, but George and I both agreed it was most uplifting part of the whole day, thousands of people lining the route, cheering and waving flags, all thoughts of tiredness and aching limbs were forgotten. I have marched down Whitehall on Remembrance Sunday with a very similar outcome, but this seemed to be very very special. There were members of all the Armed Forces all along the route for anyone who needed help, and they were there as soon as you indicated so. Apparently there was a threat of disturbance brought to the attention of the authorities, if there was, it was totally ignored by everyone in the Parade and the thousands of onlookers. The Parade wound its way into Westminster Abbey for a reception under one of the biggest marquees I have ever seen, tables adorned with flags, British Legion boxes of all manner of food, all drinks available including wine and beers, a complimentary poppy bag full of books, badges, and a very lovely silver photo frame engraved with VJ 70 Day, 15th August 2015. This was the time to relax and talk to old comrades, with a band playing in the background of all the old time favourites, people up dancing including the Duchess of Cornwall, who was gracious enough to visit most of the tables during the afternoon. As I saw her approaching our table, I rose to greet her, she shook my hand and I introduced her to George and they exchanged a few words. This seemed to cap a wonderful day for George and all the Veterans. The reception ended at 1800, whereupon we were guided to a taxi rank for VJ Veterans, this could have been our one and only hitch, as the queue was about half a mile long with what looked like hundreds of Veterans and their families in it. However the London Taxi Charity for Disabled Veterans worked a minor miracle putting people together who were headed for the same stations and we arrived at Kings Cross just 20 minutes before our train left at 1948.. The journey home was very comfortable and the staff on the train could not have been more helpful. The Royal British Legion is to be highly congratulated for delivering this special day, the whole event could not have been better organised, certainly a day that George and I will never forget. I will be emailing all those who helped us during the whole experience.
1. Victory in Europe on 8th May 1945 was celebrated on the streets of Britain with parties and celebrations long into the night – but for thousands of families whose loved ones were still fighting, the celebrations were tempered with concern.
2. The Campaign in the Far East continued to rage on for another three months. It was not until Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day) on 15th August 1945 that this theatre of war was won and Japanese Forces surrendered, signalling the real end of the war.
3. My personal reflection. It would seem to me that it has taken 70 years for many of us to recognise these very brave men and women, sometimes, known as “The Forgotten Army”, if last Saturday is anything to go by, we will never again forget….”We will remember them”