Boris Johnson thanks veterans for 'courage in adversity' on VJ Day anniversary

15 August 2020, 00:03

Boris Johnson has hailed the courage of Far East veterans
Boris Johnson has hailed the courage of Far East veterans. Picture: PA

By Megan White

Boris Johnson has written to veterans of the Far East on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, thanking them for their “courage in adversity” in the Second World War.

The Prime Minister paid tribute to veterans ahead of Victory over Japan Day on Saturday, which marks 75 years since Japan’s surrender to the Allied Forces in 1945.

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.

Read more: VJ Day 75th anniversary events: From the minute's silence to the Red Arrows flypast

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 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.

In his letter to veterans, the Prime Minister detailed how, ahead of VJ Day, the Armed Forces faced “blows 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.”

He went on to say that “this formidable force proceeded to turn defeat into victory,” adding that they achieved “one of the greatest feats of arms in military history.”

Veteran recalls his experiences on VJ Day in the Far East

He wrote: “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.”

He continued: “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.

“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.

Captain Sir Tom Moore portrait goes on display

“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.”

The Prime Minister 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."

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.

When Japanese officials signed the surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Philip's warship HMS Whelp was moored nearby and he has said the ceremony could be watched through binoculars.

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 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.

"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."