British royals lead events marking 70th year of VJ Day

Queen Elizabeth greets veterans as she leaves St Martin's-in- the-Fields church. She was there to attend a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of VJ Day in London on Saturday.
Queen Elizabeth greets veterans as she leaves St Martin's-in-the-Fields church. She was there to attend a service commemorating the 70th anniversary of VJ Day in London on Saturday.PHOTO: REUTERS

LONDON • Britain's Queen Elizabeth II led commemorations marking the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, joining veterans and former prisoners of war for a service in London.

Crowds lined streets in the city centre on Saturday to watch the events on big screens and cheer on veterans as the country remembered the Victory over Japan, which ended World War II.

The 89-year-old monarch's husband, Prince Philip, 94, who was on naval service in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrendered, accompanied her for the service.

Prince Charles attended an event which began with a flypast of historic aircraft, including a Dakota and a Hurricane.

The commemorations included a service and a wreath-laying ceremony, special readings and hymns sung by a male voice choir.

Actor Charles Dance - star of Game Of Thrones - read Rudyard Kipling's poem The Road To Mandalay which, when put to music, was a favourite marching tune for British soldiers fighting against the Japanese in Burma, under the command of Field Marshal William Slim. "When the Second World War ended in Europe... British and Commonwealth military personnel and civilians in the Far East were still at war, still on the front line and still in prisoner of war camps," he said.

Veterans, former prisoners and their descendants also joined current personnel in walking to Parliament Square and Westminster Abbey - passing the statue of Field Marshal Slim.

Prime Minister David Cameron said: "We are remembering this anniversary today because of the thousands of people who died, suffered appalling injuries and were tortured during this conflict.

"It is right that we remember, it is right that we thank them and it is right that we recognise that they suffered for our freedoms."

Ms Patricia Knatchbull, whose father, Lord Louis Mountbatten, was the supreme Allied commander in South-east Asia, said: "This 70th anniversary of the real end of World War II is a good time to show our renewed, sometimes belated, gratitude for what was achieved in South-east Asia, as well as in Europe."

Around 97,000 British and Commonwealth troops died fighting against imperial Japan in East Asia.

Former POW Gordon Smith, 95, told Prince Charles how he watched the atomic bomb fall on Hiroshima.

"This plane was overhead and the next thing we saw something floating down," he said. "We didn't know what it was. It exploded in mid-air and then there was a great big cloud like a mushroom."

Veteran Joseph Fisher, 93, hailed Saturday's events as "fantastic", saying the reception of the crowd during the parade brought a tear to his eye. He added: "It's very important because you mustn't forget what happened."

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 17, 2015, with the headline 'British royals lead events marking 70th year of VJ Day'. Print Edition | Subscribe