Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remember them all

It is right that the Great War remains the focus of Remembrance Day services, there only a few survivors and it is important that we acknowledge the sacrifices that were made. All wars are horrific but as the first World War this was more so.

As our thoughts turn to other wars, most notably WW2 we generally remember Dunkirk or the D Day landings. In other conflicts the Falkands get a mention and we give a special thought to those serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. But there is one part of WW2 that is often overlooked, the war in the Far East against Japan.

Few people realise that war continued for for a full 3 months until what is referred to as VJ Day

Victory over Japan Day (V-J Day, also known as Victory in the Pacific Day, or V-P Day) is a name chosen for the day on which the Surrender of Japan occurred, and subsequent anniversaries of that event. The term has been applied to both the day on which the initial announcement of Japan's surrender was made in the afternoon of August 15, 1945 (August 14 North American date), as well as the date the formal surrender ceremony was performed in Tokyo on September 2, 1945.
Yes of course most people are aware of the dropping of the nuclear bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, but they don't associate that with the ongoing war. After WW1 it was probably the worst war in history with soldiers fighting in hand to hand combat to clear small islands. It also brought us some of the first fanatical suicide bombers, Kamakaze's.

Furthermore, the price of capture was horrific as the Japanese had no sympathy for prisoners and used them as slave labour with many being tortured and 1,000's starving to death. They had also inflicted great suffering on other countries, most notably China, Hong Kong and Singapore, but no country in the region was spared their viscous empire.

My father was in the Feet Air Arm and occiasionally talked about the state of the prisoners they picked up; it made grown men cry to see them as they were brought on board their ships for repatriation. Even then there was black humour, he had one story of a particular skinny man being brought on board and one of the sailors putting a comforting arm round him and saying "don't worry you'll be alright now and we'll give you some proper food". To which the response was "about time, I've been on this ship for 3 years and haven't had a decent meal yet"!

Despite all that what really got to my father was how much they were forgotten at the time. This was brought home to him when they found out there had been a general election and Churchill had been replaced by Atlee. They didn't know it was happening, let alone get a vote.

So, as your thoughts turn to those who suffered in the trenches, at Dunkirk, D Day, the Falklands, Iraq, Afghanistan, Ireland , Korea and the 100's of other locations people fought and died for us, spare a thought for those forgotten servicemen in the far east.

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