Archive for August, 2015

Battle of Britain flypast commemorates 75 years since the ‘Hardest Day’

August 18th, 2015

The ‘Hardest Day’ recalls when, on 18 August 1940, Biggin Hill in Bromley came under attack from the Luftwaffe, and post-war studies have shown this was the hardest-fought day in the history of the air war over Britain.

On this day, both sides recorded their greatest losses in battle. Germany flew 850 sorties involving 2200 aircrew, and the RAF sent out 927 sorties in return.

The RAF lost altogether 68 aircraft – 31 in air combat. 69 German planes were destroyed.

Wartime reinactors attend the Commemoration of The Hardest Day at London Biggin Hill Airport Picture: Alamy

At Biggin Hill, World War Two re-enactors and veterans of the Battle of Britain assembled with many who came to watch the skies.

• Battle of Britain: the spitfire, envy of the enemy
The 20 greatest battles in British history

Veteran Tony Pickering said that he would like to fly again, saying “I’d be up there with them”.

He was one of 3,000 people – known as The Few – to fly in the Battle of Britain to keep control of the skies against the Germans.

Battle of Britain veteran, Squadron Leader Tony Pickering from Rugby, who fought alongside fellow WWII RAF airmen known as The Few Picture: PA

Air raid sirens went off as the 24 aircraft took off to make their three routes, which follow the journeys made by three pilots 75 years ago to Portsmouth, Dover and RAF Kenley.

World War II Spitfires take to the skies over Biggin Hill Picture: PA

This flight was named after Wing Commander Douglas Grice, who was awarded a medal for destroying so many German planes and was shot down three times during the six weeks’ fighting.

• Battle of Britain pilot: ‘You were always outnumbered’
‘I enjoyed the Battle of Britain’ – The Few gather for 75th anniversary

An Airbus A380 passes overhead as World War II Spitfires and Hurricanes take to the skies over Kent Picture: PA


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On the set of China’s booming war film industry, in pictures

August 17th, 2015
Filming of 'The Last Prince' television series at Hengdian World Studios

Seventy years after the end of World War II, there is still widespread resentment across China toward Japan and its wartime misdeeds. It is estimated that hundreds of films depicting China’s victory over Japan in 1945 are produced on the mainland every year and the genre remains one of the country’s most popular entertainment draws.

Picture: Kevin Frayer/Getty Images


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South West Trains scraps cut-price fare on VJ Day

August 17th, 2015

The decision not to run the special offer provoked anger, particularly after some drivers of black cabs in the capital waived fees for VJ Day veterans attending the day’s memorial.

Tony Groves, who travelled from Southampton to London Waterloo station on Saturday, complained the restrictions were unclear on South West’s website when viewed on a mobile phone:

Another customer, Steve Hallett, branded the train firm “scum of the earth”:

South West Trains said it “supported the Armed Forces community in a number of ways”, and said there were a number of events on its rail network on Saturday, including the England-France rugby match at Twickenham, which increased pressure on the service.

A company spokeswoman said: “It’s common during marketing promotions to have occasional days that are exempt from the offer and this can be due to a number of reasons. Our marketing of this particular offer clearly states any days that are not included in the promotion.

“Safety is our main priority. On days where there will be a large number of people using our network to attend special events, our experience is that encouraging even more people to travel through a price promotion can result in our services becoming severely overcrowded.

“We believe it makes more sense to encourage people to take advantage of our offers at slightly less busy times when they will be able to enjoy the experience more.”

There were an estimated 71,000 British and Commonwealth casualties of the war against Japan, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war who died in Japanese captivity.

More than 2.5 million Japanese military personnel and civilians are believed to have died during the war.


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Fireworks mark end of World War Two in Pearl Harbour

August 16th, 2015

Fireworks were launched on early Sunday in Pearl Harbour to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific.

The firework display was provided by the Japanese city of Nagaoka, which is the partner city of Honolulu.

Nagaoka is the hometown of the late Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, the architect of the attack on Pearl Harbour that launched the U.S. into the war in 1941.

US planes bombed the city during the last weeks of the war, killing nearly 2,000 people.

The war ended when Japan surrendered on August 15, 1945.


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VJ Day veterans remember their war: ‘We knew what we were doing was vital’

August 16th, 2015

But following the Japanese surrender, Mr Giddings was dispatched to assist the Dutch colonial government in Indonesia, then facing a nationalist insurgency for independence.

Back in 1940, at the start of it all, he had lied in order to do his bit. Aged 17, Mr Giddings headed to his nearest RAF recruitment station, in Gloucester, and told them he was 18 – allowing him to sign up. He said: “ After the Battle of Britain I thought ‘I’ve got to get in there, the Air Force needs me.’”

Following basic training in Skegness the teenager was among the first to put his name down when the call came for volunteers for overseas duty and in December 1941 he was posted to Air Headquarters Singapore.

He was lucky not to be captured before his war had even begun. On its way to Singapore his ship fortuitously broke down and when the rest of the convoy – which had sailed ahead to the British colony – was captured by the Japanese, it managed to make its way to Burma instead.

Here Mr Giddings fought with 17 Squadron, flying a Hawker Hurricane fighter. Overwhelmed by the Japanese in 1942, British forces retreated to India, where Mr Giddings took part in the four-month long defence of Agatala.

But his most dangerous mission was yet to come. In 1944 he signed up for “volunteers for hazardous duty” and found himself pitched into the battle of Kohima, north east India, where the Japanese were attempting to capture a key ridge held by British and Indian troops.

It was the task of Mr Giddings and his fellow volunteers to keep the defenders supplied, something they managed to do until the Japanese retreated on June 22 that year.

He rejoined 17 Squadron, this time flying Spitfires, and took part in the battle of Mandalay, which saw the Japanese overwhelmed by Allied forces – thanks in part to British supremacy in the air.

The battle, which raged from January to March 1945, proved a turning point in the war in the Far East and Mr Giddings and his squadron were subsequently ordered to take part in the recapture of Singapore, which had fallen to the Japanese in ignominious circumstances three years earlier.

By the time the men got to Singapore however, the Americans had dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shortly after the Japanese surrendered, bringing the war to an end, and Mr Giddings and his comrades were met with no opposition.

With the war over Mr Giddings was given two weeks leave and hitchhiked back to Britain, only to be sent back to the far east to help Dutch forces fight what was ultimately a losing battle against Indonesian independence. It was, the 92-year-old now says, “almost as bad as Burma”.

After leaving the RAF in 1947 Mr Giddings, who joined fellow veterans in Saturday’s VJ parade along Whitehall, worked in engineering and insurance, while also serving as a civilian volunteer in the Royal Observer Corps as part of Britain’s Cold War defences. He went on to become Mayor of Banbury and is now the chairman of the Burma Star Association. In 2003 he was made an MBE for his services to the association.

THE SOLDIER

Dan Chapman, 92

Dan Chapman, aged 21 and in Wivenhoe on Friday (Martin Rose)

Dan Chapman was among thousands of British troops at sea preparing to invade Malaysia when he heard it was all over.

As the men of his 26th Indian Division braced themselves for the bitter fighting that would follow Operation Zipper’s imminent seaborne assault on Port Swettenham, south west of Kuala Lumpur, word spread that Japan had surrendered.

Mr Chapman, now 92, said: “This time 70 years ago we were waiting on board ship to land against the Japanese in Malaya. We were about to do the landing when the atom bomb was dropped and Japan surrendered. We were saved from invading at the critical last minute, saving many Japanese and Indian Army lives. I felt somewhat relived, to put it mildly. I think we were all pleased that it was over.”

With the planned invasion averted, the 26th Indian Division was diverted to Indonesia to take the surrender of the Japanese in Sumatra.

“We weren’t sure whether we were going to be met by bullets or surrender, so we were a bit apprehensive,” said Mr Chapman. “But it went off all right and eventually all the Japanese surrendered and were sent back to Japan.”

But Mr Chapman’s war continued for another 12 months, as the 26th Indian Division took part in anti-insurgency operations on behalf of the Dutch colonial government. “My war just carried on,” he said.

Born and bred in Barking, east London, he had joined the British Army in September 1941, just before his 18th birthday, having already experienced the terror of the Blitz and served in the Local Defence Volunteers and Home Guard.

After a year in the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Army Service Corps he was transferred to the South Staffordshire Infantry Regiment and posted to Bangalore, where he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Garhwal Rifles, reaching the rank of Captain.

Mr Chapman, who was awarded the Burma Star and left the Army in 1947, went on to have three children and six grandchildren with Eileen, his wife of 65 years.

Seventy years on the retired bank manager joined other veterans at the Wivenhoe Branch of The Royal British Legion in remembering those who did not survive the war,

“I will mostly be thinking about lost comrades and some of the good times,” he said. “And just being alive.”

THE RADIO OPERATOR

Gladys Wilkins, 92

Gladys Wilkins as a young woman and at her home in Redbridge on Friday (Julian Simmonds)

Women like Gladys Wilkins played a key role in the war – a role only recognised in recent years for its true worth alongside the exploits and bravery of the front line troops.

A Women’s Royal Naval Service (WRNS) radio operator, first at Flowerdown, near Winchester, then in Columbo, Ceylon – now Sri Lanka – it was her job to intercept enemy massages and relay them back to Bletchley Park for decoding.

The Flowerdown intercepts allowed the RAF to bomb German U-boats whose signals had been overheard by operators such as Mrs Wilkins. When she was transferred to Columbo, in January 1944, the coded messages she intercepted from Japanese forces again provided priceless intelligence for the allies.

“We were able to pin point a lot of the things they were doing,” said Mrs Wilkins, now 92. “We knew that what we were doing in helping defeat the enemy was vital.”

Just how vital became only too clear when the war ended and freed allied prisoners of war began to arrive in Ceylon en route to their home countries. Mrs Wilkins and her colleagues were there to meet them at the quayside to try and help the men, emaciated from their pitiless ordeal, become acclimatised to liberty once again.

To this day the thought of the men’s skeletal features still reduces Mrs Wilkins to tears.

“We’d meet the POW ships coming back to Columbo and take the men for a coffee, just to try and make them feel normal again. Seeing them come down the gangway in the state they were in was terrible. I shall never forget that,” she said. “We didn’t want to upset them, so we didn’t mention things like the Blitz or what had happened at home.”

While returning to Britain by boat, in 1948, Mrs Wilkins met her future husband, Stanley, who had fought behind enemy lines with the Royal Marines Special Operations (385 Detachment), carrying out sabotage raids after being dropped by submarine or boat near Japanese occupied territory.

The couple, who went on to have three children, moved to south west England, where Mr Wilkins worked as a vet before joining Dorset police and rising to the rank of Chief Inspector. He died eight years ago.

Before joining Saturday’s VJ commemoration parade, organised with help of Royal British Legion, Mrs Wilkins, who now lives in Redbridge, east London, said: “I’m very proud of what my husband did, but I’m also proud of all the people who never came back. And I shall be wearing my medals with pride.”


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Britain remembers VJ Day 70 years on – live

August 15th, 2015

Veterans are now laying wreaths as they march past the Cenotaph. A veteran standard bearer collapsed and received medical attention from nearby soldiers before being stretchered away from Horseguards Parade.


David Cameron sits alongside Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall at the Horseguards Parade ceremony (IMAGE: PA)

15.10

Recap: Hundreds of veterans gathered on Horse Guards Parade for a Drumhead commemoration to celebrate Victory in Japan, attended by the Prime Minister and Prince of Wales.

Royal Marine buglers and percussionists from Portsmouth piled up their drums to form a ceremonial altar at the centre of the parade, replicating the practise used by troops on the front line.

The Right Reverend Nigel Stock, bishop to HM Armed Forces, led the service and paid particular tribute to those who served in the Far East who played a pivotal role in Japan’s defeat.

Viscount Slim, the son of Field Marshal Slim, read a passage from his father’s memoir Defeat Into Victory.

He read: “To the soldiers of many races who, in the comradeship of the 14th Army, did go on, and to the airmen who flew with them and fought with them and fought over them, belongs the true of achievement.

“It was they who turned defeat into victory.”

15.05

Charles Dance, who earlier read Kipling’s Mandalay, said: “It was rather nerve-wracking, it was like ten first night’s in a row. This is remembering people who don’t pretend. I tell you it’s nerve-wracking. I could see people mouthing the words. Christ, it’s part of history.”

14.55

A Swordfish was unable to join the flypast a of a Hurricane and a Typhoon over central London earlier.

14.50

The average age of those participating in the procession is more than 90, according to the BBC.

14.45

The Lord’s Prayer is followed by Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer.

14.40

Prince Charles has laid a wreath at the drum head, followed by the Prime Minister.

14.35

A minute’s silence across Horse Guards.

14.30

The last post is now being played.

14.25

Drumhead altar being built at the #VJDay70 service

14.10

Charles Dance is reading Kipling’s Mandalay. “On the road to Mandalay, where the flying-fishes play. / An’ the dawn comes up like thunder outer China ‘crost the Bay.”

14.10

Flypast of an RAF Typhoon and a Hurricane delights the crowds at Horseguards Parade.

13.50

The procession on Horseguards Parade is about to start.

13.15

THE SOLDIER

Dan Chapman, 92, speaks to Patrick Sawer about his experiences fighting the Japanese in Malaya.

Mr Chapman was among thousands of British troops at sea preparing to invade Malaysia when he heard it was all over.

As the men of his 26th Indian Division braced themselves for the bitter fighting that would follow Operation Zipper’s imminent seaborne assault on Port Swettenham, south west of Kuala Lumpur, word spread that Japan had surrendered.

Mr Chapma, said: “This time 70 years ago we were waiting on board ship to land against the Japanese in Malaya. We were about to do the landing when the atom bomb was dropped and Japan surrendered. We were saved from invading at the critical last minute, saving many Japanese and Indian Army lives. I felt somewhat relived, to put it mildly. I think we were all pleased that it was over.”

With the planned invasion averted, the 26th Indian Division was diverted to Indonesia to take the surrender of the Japanese in Sumatra.

“We weren’t sure whether we were going to be met by bullets or surrender, so we were a bit apprehensive,” said Mr Chapman. “But it went off all right and eventually all the Japanese surrendered and were sent back to Japan.”

But Mr Chapman’s war continued for another 12 months, as the 26th Indian Division took part in anti-insurgency operations on behalf of the Dutch colonial government. “My war just carried on,” he said.

Born and bred in Barking, east London, he had joined the British Army in September 1941, just before his 18th birthday, having already experienced the terror of the Blitz and served in the Local Defence Volunteers and Home Guard.

After a year in the Royal Corps of Signals and the Royal Army Service Corps he was transferred to the South Staffordshire Infantry Regiment and posted to Bangalore, where he was commissioned as an officer in the Royal Garhwal Rifles, reaching the rank of Captain.

Mr Chapman, who was awarded the Burma Star and left the Army in 1947, went on to have three children and six grandchildren with Eileen, his wife of 65 years.

Seventy years on the retired bank manager joined other veterans at the Wivenhoe Branch of The Royal British Legion in remembering those who did not survive the war,

“I will mostly be thinking about lost comrades and some of the good times,” he said. “And just being alive.”

13.10

From Tokyo: Japanese Emperor Akihito expressed rare “deep remorse” over his country’s wartime actions in an address Saturday marking the 70th anniversary of Japan’s World War II surrender, a day after the prime minister fell short of apologizing in his own words to the victims of Japanese aggression.

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meanwhile, stayed away from a contentious Yasukuni shrine that honors war criminals among other war dead. He instead prayed and laid flowers at a national cemetery for unnamed fallen soldiers ahead of the annual ceremony at Tokyo’s Budokan hall.

That ceremony started with a moment of silence at noon to mark the radio announcement by Emperor Hirohito, Akihito’s father, of Japan’s surrender on Aug. 15, 1945.

12.55

Rare colour footage of VJ Day from the archives.

12.15

Ahead of the VJ Day commemorations, The Telegraph’s Patrick Sawer has spoken to several veterans of Britain’s campaign in the Far East to record their stories.

THE AIRMAN

John Giddings, 92

John Giddings’ war did not end with the Allied victory over Japan on 15 August 1945.

For four long years he had fought in Singapore, Burma and India as British forces confronted the Japanese across south east Asia.

But following the Japanese surrender, Mr Giddings was dispatched to assist the Dutch colonial government in Indonesia, then facing a nationalist insurgency for independence.

Back in 1940, at the start of it all, he had lied in order to do his bit. Aged 17, Mr Giddings headed to his nearest RAF recruitment station, in Gloucester, and told them he was 18 – allowing him to sign up. He said: “ After the Battle of Britain I thought ‘I’ve got to get in there, the Air Force needs me.’”

Following basic training in Skegness the teenager was among the first to put his name down when the call came for volunteers for overseas duty and in December 1941 he was posted to Air Headquarters Singapore.

He was lucky not to be captured before his war had even begun. On its way to Singapore his ship fortuitously broke down and when the rest of the convoy – which had sailed ahead to the British colony – was captured by the Japanese, it managed to make its way to Burma instead.

Here Mr Giddings fought with 17 Squadron, flying a Hawker Hurricane fighter. Overwhelmed by the Japanese in 1942, British forces retreated to India, where Mr Giddings took part in the four-month long defence of Agatala.

But his most dangerous mission was yet to come. In 1944 he signed up for “volunteers for hazardous duty” and found himself pitched into the battle of Kohima, north east India, where the Japanese were attempting to capture a key ridge held by British and Indian troops.

It was the task of Mr Giddings and his fellow volunteers to keep the defenders supplied, something they managed to do until the Japanese retreated on June 22 that year.

He rejoined 17 Squadron, this time flying Spitfires, and took part in the battle of Mandalay, which saw the Japanese overwhelmed by Allied forces – thanks in part to British supremacy in the air.

The battle, which raged from January to March 1945, proved a turning point in the war in the Far East and Mr Giddings and his squadron were subsequently ordered to take part in the recapture of Singapore, which had fallen to the Japanese in ignominious circumstances three years earlier.

By the time the men got to Singapore however, the Americans had dropped the atom bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Shortly after the Japanese surrendered, bringing the war to an end, and Mr Giddings and his comrades were met with no opposition.

With the war over Mr Giddings was given two weeks leave and hitchhiked back to Britain, only to be sent back to the far east to help Dutch forces fight what was ultimately a losing battle against Indonesian independence. It was, the 92-year-old now says, “almost as bad as Burma”.

After leaving the RAF in 1947 Mr Giddings, who joined fellow veterans in Saturday’s VJ parade along Whitehall, worked in engineering and insurance, while also serving as a civilian volunteer in the Royal Observer Corps as part of Britain’s Cold War defences. He went on to become Mayor of Banbury and is now the chairman of the Burma Star Association. In 2003 he was made an MBE for his services to the association.

11.55

The Queen is meeting veterans outside St-Martin-in-the-Fields. She came down from Balmoral castle and was said to be particularly keen to attend today’s proceedings.

She is greeted by an eager crowd as she returns to her motorcade in Trafalgar Square. A flypast and a procession on Horseguards Parade with more than 1,000 VJ Day veterans will follow later. Join us here for both.

11.50

Tom Boardman is reading the Far East Prisoner of War Prayer.

• VJ Day 70th anniversary: Britain remembers, in pictures


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VJ Day 70th anniversary: a veteran’s story

August 14th, 2015

The Radar Technician was soon diverted to Singapore at short notice to fight the Japanese.

Gordon was on board a ship bound for Singapore

The group of ten men in his convoy were sent to guard a refinery armed only with one service rifle and ten rounds of ammunition each.

After the refinery was taken by Japanese paratroopers, Gordon and his group of men were forced to flee to Java – only to be captured by the Japanese and taken to a PoW camp in Hiroshima.

Only when the A-bomb was dropped on Hiroshima was Gordon freed

He would remain in the camp until he was 25, when the Atom bombs were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

“I still have nightmares about this but was lucky to come home. Some people say they should not have dropped the Atom Bomb on Japan,” says Gordon.

“In my opinion if they had not nearly all the PoWs would have died or been killed by the Japanese.”


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V-J Day: rare colour archive footage shows people celebrating end of World War II

August 14th, 2015

The Imperial War Museum has released rare colour film showing the Victory over Japan (V-J Day) celebrations in central London on 15 August 1945.

The amateur film was shot by Lieutenant Sidney Sasson of the US Army Signal Corps, Army Pictorial Service. It shows in incredible detail the celebrations that took place in and around Piccadilly Circus and Trafalgar Square in central London.

Londoners celebrate in the street (Imperial War Museum)

US servicemen and civilians are seen throwing paper and ticker tape, and dancing in a conga line to celebrate the end of the war.

A woman laughs as she dances in a conga line through central London (Imperial War Museum)

At one point a staff sergeant reaches to kiss a woman in a scene reminiscent of the famous photograph captured during the Times Square V-J Day celebrations.

A US staff sergeant draws a woman in for a kiss (Imperial War Museum)

V-J Day marked the victory over Japan after the country surrendered to allied forces on 15 August 1945.

It effectively brought an end to World War II and followed the surrender of Nazi Germany to the allies a little over over three months before.


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More than 7,000 Japanese war victims’ remains never claimed

August 13th, 2015

Approximately 100,000 people perished in the inferno, a further 125,000 were injured and 1.5 million people lost their homes.

The cities of Osaka, Yokohama, Kamaishi and Sakai were also identified as important strategic targets for the Allies and were heavily bombed.

The remains of 815 people remain in storage in Hiroshima, killed in the first atom bomb attack, while 122 residents of Nagasaki are awaiting collection.

Temples in each of the cities are storing the remains of people who could be identified by their clothing or identity papers but have never been collected by relatives.

The temples have repeatedly appealed for family members to come forward to take their relatives’ remains but it is unlikely that any more remains will be claimed seven decades after the war ended.

In many cases, men sent to the front never returned and other family members were killed but never identified.

As many as 500,000 Japanese civilians died in the conflict.


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