Veterans gather in Preston to mark VJ Day

Ex-servicemen in Preston joined thousands more around the world for a poignant ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day.

By Gareth Vickers
Saturday, 15th August 2015, 1:24 pm
Photo Neil Cross: The ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ day at the war memorial in Preston Cemetery
Photo Neil Cross: The ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ day at the war memorial in Preston Cemetery

Preston and District Veterans Council (PDVC) met for a moving service at the war memorial at Preston Cemetery in New Hall Lane on Saturday morning.

The service was one of hundreds which took place across the UK to mark the end of the conflict, when Japan surrendered.

Col Bernard Stam, president of the PDVC, said it was “extremely important” to remember the thousands of British soldiers who fought and died during the warfare.

Photo Neil Cross: Father Timothy Lipscombe with the Mayor of Preston, Coun Margaret McManus at the ceremony to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ day at the war memorial in Preston Cemetry

He added: “We gather here especially to remember all those who died in the Far East during the Second World War.

“In particular the 2nd and 5th Battalions from Preston - local men who fought and died.

“They were prisoners of war in Korea and Japan and other places. We should also not forget those who survived but are still affected mentally and physically today.”

Timothy Lipscomb, the Vicar of Preston, said the day should not just be a reminder of what happened in 1945, but also to remember those still in conflict around the world.

He added: “Wars still continue in other lands and although our trade with Japan and relations are much improved, there are parts of the world where people are still in fear of their lives from being bombed and killed.

“There are still many held against their own will. Men, women and children around the world - our hearts are with them today.”

While fighting during the Second World War ended in Europe in May 1945, the battle continued in the Far East for several months.

It was only after two atomic bombs were dropped on the country the Japanese surrendered on August 15, 1945.

It ended one of the worst episodes in British military history, during which tens of thousands of servicemen were forced to endure the brutalities of prisoner of war camps, where disease was rife and there was a lack of food and water.

It is estimated there was 71,000 British and Commonwealth casualties of the war against Japan, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war who died in Japanese captivity.

During Saturday’s ceremony the Last Post was played, with a minute’s silenced held.

The Mayor of Preston, Coun Margaret McManus, laid a poppy wreath on the cemetery memorial.

Other guests included one couple who had travelled more than 9,000 miles from Australia. Gray Hooper, 68, and his wife Wendy, 64, were visiting the UK to meet with former neighbour Col John Bird, 88, a member of the Loyal Regiment North Lancashire.

Australia was heavily targeted by the Japanese Army during the Second World War, with significant air raids.

Mr Hooper said: “The Japanese had a major impact on Australia, in particular with bombing raids in Darwin.

“It fills me with a great sense of pride to be here today on such a poignant occasion.”