This Saturday, August 15th, will see the Commemoration of the 75th Anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) Day.
Earlier this year, on May 8th, we had the 75th commemoration of VE Day (Victory over Europe), and it is clear that many people believed on that date in 1945 World War II had come to end.
But it hadn’t.
While victory celebrations took place all over the United Kingdom and in Europe, the war raged on in the Far East and many were unaware of the continued atrocities being handed out by the Japanese on their captives in Singapore, Thailand, Burma and Malaysia.
Their appalling ill-treatment of the prisoners they held for three and a half years would continue until August 15th, 1945, when the Japanese finally surrendered following the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans.
As tragic as those actions were for everyone involved, they finally brought the Japanese to their knees and forced them to surrender.
This ended years of indescribable physical and mental suffering, starvation, deprivation, degradation and inhumane cruelty by their captors for thousands of young servicemen, taken when Singapore fell in February 1942, and for the countless civilians – men, women and children – also captured and interred, and the women sent to work in brothels.
Since the end of World War II the Japanese government have refused to pay compensation and, more importantly, to apologise.
A payment of £76, given to the servicemen when they were repatriated, was paid out of Japanese assets held in this country and frozen during the war.
In 2000, after 55 years of campaigning, Tony Blair’s government finally agreed that compensation should be paid to all those UK citizens held by the Japanese – or to their families if they had since died.
But the money will have come from the British taxpayer and not the Japanese, because they don’t believe – and never will – they did anything wrong.
And that’s why I believe that, in a similar situation today, they would behave in exactly the same way.
The Japanese didn’t learn to be cruel, to torture and abuse their fellow man in the extreme ways they chose to in the war. But they didn’t have to, because it’s bred into them as they grow up – and therefore they would feel no remorse, and indeed have shown none.
Now, 75 years on, most of the FEPOWs have passed away, many of them taking the memories of their gruesome wartime experiences to the grave. They were too traumatised to talk about it and therefore got no relief from the mental torture they had carried with them through their post-war lives.
Although it’s not possible to know or even understand the extent of the atrocities the FEPOWs endured, I really hope that this Saturday August 15th 2020, people will stop, as we did on May 8th for VE Day, and remember the thousands of courageous human beings who suffered so much for three-and-a-half years at the hands of the Japanese.
Those who never came home to their loved ones, and those who did, but whose suffering continued to the end of their lives.
Each and every one of them deserves our respect and gratitude for their service to their country and the war effort.
Known as ‘The Forgotten Army’, we must ensure their memory lives on forever.
“Lest we Forget”
*If you would like to read more from a personal perspective please read my blog ‘REMEMBERANCE DAY’ November 9th 2019.