Charles leads tributes to ‘forgotten army’ on 75th anniversary of VJ Day

Prince Charles has led tributes to Second World War veterans on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, saying they should be “respected, thanked and cherished”.

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.

Charles, who laid wreaths with the Duchess of Cornwall at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, said those who fought in the Far East had been labelled “the forgotten army”.

VJ Day - Boris Johnson
PM: ‘We will remember them’

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.

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.”

Prince Charles lays a wreath
Image: Prince Charles lays a wreath at the National Memorial Arboretum
Prince Charles helps 97-year-old veteran Darbara Singh Bhullar lay a wreath
Image: The Prince of Wales helps 97-year-old veteran Darbara Singh Bhullar lay a wreath

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”.

Prince Charles speaks to a veteran
Image: Prince Charles speaking to a veteran
The Duchess of Cornwall chats to a Second World war veteran
Image: The Duchess of Cornwall chatting following the service

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”.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivers a speech during a memorial service in Tokyo
Image: Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe spoke during a memorial service in Tokyo

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”.

In Japan, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged “never to repeat the tragedy of war” and Emperor Naruhito expressed “deep remorse” over the wartime past.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace lays a wreath at the Cenotaph on Whitehall
‘When we forget, the world gets worse’

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.”

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