Royal Family and PM will join veterans to mark VJ Day anniversary

Royal Family and Boris Johnson will join Second World War veterans to mark 75 years since VJ Day with Red Arrows set to perform a flypast

  • The Prime Minister and the Royal Family will be joined by other world leaders
  • Prince Philip, 99, was aboard a Navy destroyer when the Japanese surrendered
  • Johnson also paid tribute to role of Far East fighters played in Second World War
  • Poll reveals almost half of British public do not know about Victory in Japan day 

The Royal Family and Boris Johnson will today join Second World War veterans to mark 75 years since VJ Day.

Prince Philip, 99, will be among those paying tribute to the heroes who fell during the campaign in the Far East.

The duke was aboard the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Whelp in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.

Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall will also attend today’s service at the National Memorial Arboretum near Lichfield, Staffordshire.

For the first time since the 2012 Olympics, the Red Arrows will conduct a flypast over the four capital cities of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

VJ celebrations in London, August 1945. News of the surrender of Japan to the Allies in mid-August 1945, which signalled the end of the war in the Far East, generated even more rejoicing and celebration in Britain than the proclamation of Victory in Europe only a few months earlier.

Some 71,000 British and Commonwealth troops died during the war against Japan, including 12,000 in captivity. Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said yesterday: ‘VJ Day is sometimes seen as the forgotten victory, but this year, on its 75th anniversary, our celebrations are rightly focused on paying special tribute to the Greatest Generation and their service and sacrifice in the Far East.

‘These commemorations have been specially designed to include our veterans and pay tribute to the wartime generation as much as possible despite these challenging times.’

His comments came as a poll for Armed Forces charity SSAFA found that 46 per cent of Britons do not know the meaning of VJ Day. 

World leaders will join Boris Johnson and Prince Philip on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has been joined by nine other global figures including US president Donald Trump, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari and Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau in recording a video message thanking those who served.

In the Friendship of Nations video, due to be released ahead of commemorations, each leader will say in turn: ‘To all who served, we thank you.’

During a series of events throughout VJ Day, August 15, the royal family and Mr Johnson will lead the country in honouring those who fought in the Far East and helped to finally end the Second World War.

Boris Johnson and Prince Philip will be among the World leaders marking the anniversary

For the first time since the 2012 Olympics, the Red Arrows will conduct a flypast over the four capital cities of England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales.

Mr Johnson said: ‘On this 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, we pay tribute to the heroes deployed thousands of miles away in the mountains, islands and rainforests of Asia.

‘Unable to celebrate the victory in Europe, and among the last to return home, today we recognise the bravery and ingenuity of those who, in the face of adversity, restored peace and prosperity to the world.

‘Their immeasurable sacrifice changed the course of history and at today’s commemorations, we take the opportunity to say what should be said every day – thank you.’

The day will begin with a piper playing Battle’s Over at the Imperial War Museum’s HMS Belfast in London at sunrise, as part of a tribute entitled Waking Up To Peace.

Military pipers will also be playing at dawn in India, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will lead a two-minute silence at 11am during a televised event, screened by the BBC, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

Mr Johnson will read the Exhortation before the nation falls silent and afterwards the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will take part in a flypast over the arboretum.

The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, who served in the Second World War as a naval officer, will feature alongside other veterans on a number of large screens across the UK, including the Piccadilly Curve, in a photo-montage showing veterans today and when they served. 

It will be a rare appearance for the duke who retired from royal duties in 2017 and has only been seen in public a handful of times.

In the evening his grandson the Duke of Cambridge will take part in VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute, a pre-recorded BBC programme filmed at Horse Guards Parade where, alongside veteran testimony and a host of famous faces, the duke will honour and give thanks to all those who sacrificed so much during the Second World War.

Another aerial tribute will also be staged, with the Red Arrows roaring over the cities of Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London with the flight path to include the home of the Chelsea Pensioners, where three Burma Star recipients live in retirement.

The other world leaders who have taken part in the Friendship of Nations video, which will be broadcast at 10.15am, include Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo, prime minister Scott Morrison from Australia, Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama, Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera, Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada and the prime minister of Tonga Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa.

In a video message to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said: ‘On behalf of the Labour Party I want to pay tribute to the wartime generation, who through the horrors of conflict showed us the spirit and determination that we need to always remember and always be grateful for.

The Duke of Edinburgh was aboard the Royal Navy destroyer HMS Whelp in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945 during the Second World War


Nearly half of the British public do not know what Victory in Japan (VJ) Day is, according to the findings of a poll taken shortly before its 75th anniversary.

On Saturday, the country will pay tribute to the sacrifices made by those who fought in the Far East to bring about the end of the Second World War.

The conflict against Japan endured three months beyond Victory in Europe (VE) Day on May 8 1945, with brutal fighting only ending with the Japanese surrender on August 15.

But a survey of 2,020 Britons aged over 16 from SSAFA, the Armed Forces charity, carried out between July 27 and 29, found that 46% did not know what the VJ acronym stands for.

Of these, just 5% said they would celebrate it every year after discovering what the day marked, the survey found.

Meanwhile, more than half (52%) of those unaware of the significance of the day said they were not likely to do or feel anything towards the anniversary after finding out what it stood for.

SSAFA suggested the findings pointed to VJ Day ‘slowly being erased from British history’.

It highlighted that due to the earlier conclusion of war in Europe, some veterans returning from the Far East have referred to themselves as the ‘forgotten army’.

This year’s VJ Day commemorations have had to be adapted to accommodate restrictions imposed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The royal family, including the Duke of Edinburgh, the Prince of Wales and the Duke of Cambridge, are all due to play a role in events planned on Saturday.

This includes a service of thanksgiving and remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, a national two-minute silence, and a Red Arrows flypast.

Sir Gary Coward, chairman of SSAFA, said: ‘We should all be aware of our national history, especially when associated with an unrelenting campaign and huge sacrifice. VJ Day marks such an event.’

He added: ‘Many people celebrate Victory in Europe Day, but very few acknowledge or know about Victory over Japan Day.

‘Thousands of Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen remained incarcerated in horrendous conditions and their many colleagues continued to fight bitter battles for freedom in the Far East well after VE Day.

‘Without their supreme sacrifice, life would be very different to what it is now.

‘On this 75th anniversary, we ought to take a moment to reflect on this and try to learn the lessons of this key moment in history.

‘The huge losses on all sides must not be forgotten.’

‘It’s important that as we face the challenges of today, we take inspiration from that generation.

‘Through their community spirit and their bravery and their determination for a better world they’ve shown us what we can achieve when we pull together.’

Japan’s capitulation came more than three months after VE Day saw the war end in Europe, when Germany surrendered to the Allies following the suicide of Adolf Hitler. 

The Prime Minister has hailed the courage of Far East veterans in bringing the Second World War to an end and delivering ‘peace and prosperity’.

In a letter addressed to ‘Veterans of the Far East Campaign’ on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, Boris Johnson offered his thanks for their service.

Highlighting the importance of the war’s outcome to South East Asia, Mr Johnson said: ‘You were the last to come home but your achievements are written in the lights of the glittering capitals of the dynamic region we see today.

‘You fought for freedom, brought the Second World War to its end, and restored peace and prosperity to the world.

‘All of us who were born after you have benefited from your courage in adversity. On this anniversary, and every day hereafter, you will be remembered.’

Due to the distance from Britain, military victories in Europe, and long final journeys home, some veterans returning from the Far East felt their efforts were not fully recognised, dubbing themselves the ‘forgotten army’.

In acknowledgement, Mr Johnson wrote: ‘When at last you returned, you sometimes found that your experiences had been overshadowed in popular imagination by the conflict in Europe.

‘So in offering my thanks for your service, I would like to remember what you achieved.

‘Today the countries of South East Asia are prospering faster than almost anywhere else in the world.

‘This transformation would never have been possible if they had stayed under the occupation of Japan, imposed through the defeat of British and Commonwealth forces in Malaysia, Singapore and Burma.’

Mr Johnson added: ‘These blows were so heavy that many feared they would break your will to fight on.

‘But you survived the longest retreat in British history, marching almost 1,000 miles from Burma to India, and then you regrouped and reformed.’ 

The Prime Minister also wrote: ‘At Kohima in 1944, British and Indian forces, outnumbered ten to one, halted Japan’s invasion of India and achieved one of the greatest feats of arms in military history.’

He added: ‘You accomplished these advances through ingenuity and daring, mastering jungle warfare, overcoming malaria and solving the supposedly intractable problem of how to fight during the monsoon.

‘General William Slim, the Commander of the 14th Army, wrote that he asked his soldiers ‘for the impossible – and got it’.’

Mr Johnson concluded: ‘You know better than me the fearful cost: 50,000 British and Commonwealth citizens laid down their lives in the war against Japan. Of these, nearly half died in brutal prison camps.

‘Yet this immeasurable sacrifice helped to change the course of history and lay the foundations of the success of South East Asia.’

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