Sunday, July 19, 2015

Celebrating VE and VJ days 70 years on.

Two Veterans from WW2
On Friday we went to an event at our local church celebrating the end of World War 2. It was enjoyable and moving, drawing on local resources.

We had songs from the era, excepts from classic Churchill speeches (brilliantly read by Edmund Dehn) and historical narration.

The most moving were two short items from members of our congregation who were actually involved in D-Day. John Goode who landed at D+2 and his friend Bill who had been mate in a Landing Craft from the Africa coast. He recalled that the anchor line which they had been paying out to haul them off the beach snapped and they eventually had to be pushed off by the Army.

We also had reminiscences from Jenkin Thomas who had been a small boy in a Welsh Village where they had held bonfires on VE Day and VJ Day burning Hitler and Hirohito in effigy on the two occasions. Many years later as a Diplomat in Japan he had been presented to Hirohito and took his hand - though no words were spoken.

A woman also read some of the reminiscences of her late father who had been a PoW in the notorious Japanese PoW camp involved in building the railway in Malaysia immortalised in the Bridge over the River Kwai. He had been digging latrines when the news reached the camp of the Japanese surrender and his guard came up to him. "You number 1 now me number 10, I will dig that latrine". They asked the sadistic Camp Commander to keep his guards in place but they all fled. A Para officer walked in to their astonishment saying that he had been keeping an eye on them for a few weeks.  Later her father had found the Camp Commander who had disguised himself as a Private and handed him over to he authorities - he was hanged.

We also had at our table the son of Captain Richard T (Dick) White who won the DSO and 2 Bars, on destroyers in the N Atlantic, Baltic, Med and then Japan. He was Captain of HMS Cossack which was (according to his son) the picket boat for the Missouri and so was used to ferry admirals to the surrender.  He also walked in the ruins of Hiroshima 3 weeks after the bombing - but lived to be 85. Later in life he was Commandant of the Royal Naval College and commanded an Aircraft Carrier.

It is wonderful that we still have veterans with us who are able to give their memories. This will probably not be so for the 80th anniversary.

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