Spitfires and Hurricanes soar above Britain as Queen and senior royals lead tributes on VJ Day 75th anniversary
- 15 Aug 2020
THE QUEEN today led tributes on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day as iconic Hurricanes and Spitfires graced the skies above Britain.
Her Majesty sent a message of support to thank troops “who fought so valiantly to secure the freedoms we cherish today” while Prince Charles and Camilla laid a wreath at a remembrance service.
The Queen said: “Prince Philip and I join many around the world in sending our grateful thanks to the men and women from across the Commonwealth, and Allied nations, who fought so valiantly to secure the freedoms we cherish today.”
Senior royals led a minute’s silence, with the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall saying “today, we remember the contribution of all Commonwealth and Allied Forces to WWII.”
Union Flags have been flown at full-mast on UK Government buildings to mark the 75th anniversary of the day Japan surrendered, which brought the Second World War to an end after six years of fighting.
A two-minute silence was held at 11am to remember and thank all those from the many nations who fought for the freedoms that we enjoy today.
And Spitfires, Hurricanes, a Lancaster Bomber and the Red Arrows graced the skies in tribute.
The Queen’s 99-year-old husband Prince Philip and other senior royals have led British commemorations for VJ Day.
Philip served in the British navy during the conflict and was on board the destroyer HMS Whelp in Tokyo Bay when the Japanese surrender was signed.
The royal features in a photo montage of living veterans being shown on large screens in locations across the country for the August 15 tributes.
Prince Charles has this morning led a national two-minute silence at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, central England, while Prince William features in a special BBC TV programme being broadcast today.
The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, read the Exhortation before the nation fell silent.
Afterwards, the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight involved a flypast with the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows.
They were to soar above the UK’s four capitals, but unfortunately for crowds gazing upwards, cloudy weather dashed plans to fly across Edinburgh and Cardiff.
The commemorations were supposed to include the Red Arrows flying over Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London for the first time since the 2012 Olympic Games.
Hundreds of spectators were gathered in Edinburgh in anticipation of the flypast that had been scheduled for about 11.30am.
But because of the “low cloud outside of safety limits”, the pilots diverted to fly over Prestwick Airport, where they landed to refuel and met three veterans of the Second World War.
The Red Arrow’s Twitter account said: “Our aircraft have safely landed @GPAPassenger but, unfortunately, due to low cloud outside of safety limits at #Edinburgh, we could not carry out the flypast over the city.
“Weather particularly challenging in parts of the UK today – meaning this could impact plans.”
The flypast over Cardiff has now also been cancelled due to bad weather.
The Red Arrows were due to fly over the Welsh capital at 2.40pm before landing at Cardiff Airport.
However the aircraft did fly over Belfast city centre at 2pm, passing the landmark Titanic building and the Harland and Wolff shipyard cranes as they flew up Belfast Lough, leaving their famous red, white and blue smoke trails in their wake.
PRINCE CHARLES LAYS WREATH
Prince Charles laid a wreath and delivered a speech as part of the service, before meeting veterans and descendants of those who served in the Asia-Pacific region.
He said: “Lord Mountbatten told me of his experiences of that gruelling campaign.
“Our troops faced not only a determined opponent, but at the same time had to contend with an incredibly hostile jungle environment and the ever-present scourge of disease which claimed nearly a quarter of a million Allied casualties.
“At this point we should also reflect on those unfortunate prisoners of war, who suffered so dreadfully.
“Over a quarter of all Allied prisoners of war lost their lives in captivity.
“The courage and fortitude shown by all those who fought in the region was exemplary.”
Richard Day, 93, from Borehamwood, north of London, who was involved in the decisive Battle of Kohima in north-east India – which marked a turning point in the Far East land campaign – was among about 40 veterans at the ceremony of remembrance.
Mr Day, of the Royal Welch Fusiliers, served in the forces which relieved Kohima and Imphal and told of how he contracted malaria and dysentery at the same time, while fighting a highly determined enemy.
He recalled: “I think the worse part was crossing rivers at night, it was cold at night – then all night in wet clothes and wet equipment, still having to move about.
“They (the Japanese) were very determined for their emperor.
“It was a glory for them to die for their emperor. They didn’t appear to have any fear at all.”
Mr Johnson said: “When the Second World War ended 75 years ago with the surrender of Japan, British soldiers, sailors and airmen were serving in the Far East, fighting hard to achieve victory – and were among the last to come home.
“On this anniversary I want to remember what we owe the veterans of the Far East campaign.
“They brought an end to the Second World War, they changed the course of history for the better, liberated South East Asia, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice.”
Mr 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, released ahead of commemorations, each leader says in turn: “To all who served, we thank you.”
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.”
In a letter addressed to the veterans of the Far East Campaign, Mr Johnson showed his gratitude to the 50,000 British and Commonwealth service personnel who laid down their lives in the war against Japan, half of whom died in prison camps.
He writes: “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.”
The day began 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 also played at dawn in India, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was joined by military chiefs as he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London, on Saturday morning.
What is VJ Day?
Victory over Japan Day brought victory for the Allies and finally marked the end of the Second World War.
The multinational World War II campaign against Japan formally ended 75 years ago, about three months after Nazi Germany had been vanquished in Europe.
Following the surrender of the Nazis on May 8, 1945, V-E Day, Allied troops carried on fighting the Japanese until an armistice was declared on August 15, 1945.
Japan formally surrendered on September 2, 1945, but many Pacific War veterans felt their efforts were not fully recognised and dubbed themselves the “forgotten army.”
Japan’s surrender following the detonation of atomic bombs over the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ended the Second World War.
Almost one million Australians served in World War II, including 39,000 who died and another 30,000 taken prisoner.
More than 200,000 New Zealanders also served during six long years of war, and more than 11,500 perished.
VJ (Victory over Japan) Day, is celebrated on August 15.
This date commemorates Japan’s acceptance of the Allied demand for unconditional surrender on August 14, 1945.
There was much joy and celebration around the world when on August 15, 1945, US President Harry S Truman declared the day as Victory over Japan Day, at a White House press conference.
Addressing crowds outside the White House, President Truman said: “This is the day we have been waiting for since Pearl Harbor.”
At midnight, the British PM Clement Atlee confirmed the news in a broadcast declaring: “The last of our enemies is laid low.”