A VIRTUAL service at Leicester Cathedral, featuring a reading by the Duke of Gloucester and a dedicated website to allow people to pay their own tributes, are among the many ways in which the city and county will be marking the 75th anniversary of VJ Day on Saturday, August 15.
The commemoration will remember the date in 1945 when Japan surrendered, in effect ending the Second World War.
The Far East campaign was fought by British, Allied and Commonwealth forces between December 1941 and August 1945. While much of the focus was on the war in Europe, the Far East campaign became known as ‘the Forgotten War’ and the troops serving in it ‘the Forgotten Army’. Many thousands of men were captured and endured years of captivity in brutal prisoner of war camps.
Leicester and Leicestershire have particular reason to commemorate the service of the troops in the Far East campaign, in which the Leicestershire Regiment was a key player. It was in recognition of the regiment’s outstanding service in the Far East and other theatres of war that King George VI awarded it the title of the Royal Leicestershire Regiment in 1946.
The 75th anniversary of VJ Day was due to be marked with a service at Leicester Cathedral, but this has been scaled back because of the ongoing coronavirus restrictions.
Instead, the bravery and sacrifice of all those who fought in the Far East campaign is to be honoured online.
In Leicestershire, the city and county councils, together with the Lieutenancy Office, the Royal Tigers’ Association and the Children of Far East Prisoners of War (COFEPOW), have been working together on an alternative commemoration.
Leicestershire County Council is hosting a dedicated website full of material paying tribute to the veterans of the Far East campaign. It features a wealth of material, including video messages, in-depth history of the campaign and personal reminiscences from those involved and their families.
The website also contains a link to the virtual service at Leicester Cathedral, which takes place at 5pm on Saturday, August 15. Visit the VJ 75 website at www.leicestershire.gov.uk/VJDay75
The service will be led by the Dean of Leicester, and the Bishop of Leicester will preach the sermon. HRH The Duke of Gloucester, who is patron of the National Far East Prisoners of War Fellowship Association, will read an extract from the speech given by King George VI on VJ Day in 1945. There will also be an Act of Remembrance, wreath laying and readings from veterans’ associations and family members.
The commemorations will also involve their Royal Highnesses The Prince of Wales and The Duchess of Cornwall leading the nation in a two minute-silence from the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, on Saturday at 11am.
Leicester’s Armed Forces Champion, Councillor Vi Dempster, said: “Many soldiers from both the city and the county served in the Far East against Japan and its allies, and Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945 brought the Second World War to an end.
“Those who fought in the Far East became known as the “forgotten army”, but without their sacrifices we would not enjoy life as we know it, and it is important that we take this opportunity to show our most heartfelt gratitude.”
Leicester’s museums will also be hosting two new exhibitions commemorating 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
Finding the Fallen, VE75 – A Pilgrim’s Journey of Remembrance, will be on at Leicester Museum and Gallery from August 17 to November 15, exploring the artist Loz Atkinson’s memories of her great grandfather Arthur Pinder, who died along with his crew when their Halifax Bomber crashed in the Second World War.
Newarke Houses Museum and Gardens will commemorate VJ Day with an exhibition entitled VJ 75 – Leicestershire Prisoners of War in the Far East 1941-45, which will be on display from August 27 to November 8.
Lord Mayor of Leicester, Councillor Annette Byrne, added: “The re-opening of our museums this month has been long awaited and will see the launch of two key exhibitions to commemorate the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day and the 75th Anniversary of VE Day. They offer a fantastic opportunity to learn more about this significant period of history.”