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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