Veterans Join VJ Commemorations In Edinburgh

15 August 2015, 09:03 | Updated: 15 August 2015, 09:06

Veterans who served in the Far East during the Second World War are to attend commemorations to mark the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan.

The Royal British Legion Scotland is hosting a service at Canongate Kirk in Edinburgh followed by a reception at Waverley Court.

While the war in Europe ended in early May 1945, it raged on in the Far East.

The Japanese finally surrendered on August 14 after the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki and Soviet declaration of war and invasion of Manchuria.

The following day was celebrated as Victory over Japan (VJ) Day.

Burma Star veteran Billy Duncan, 86, will attend the event in Edinburgh.

Mr Duncan, from Moffat, joined the Merchant Navy at 16 and helped with the liberation of the first batch of prisoners of war from the notorious 258-mile Thailand-Burma railway, also known as the death railway.

He said: ''I was serving on the armed merchant ship RMS Almanzora in the Far East prior to the end of that war and after landing troops on the coast of Malaysia, we continued on to Singapore where we were one of the first ships to enter that harbour following the Japanese surrender.

''Whilst there we embarked the first batch of ex-PoWs from the notorious death railway in Burma and also along with other cadets was shown the horrific conditions inside Changi Jail.''

Seventy years after his first posting to Burma, Mr Duncan was awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) for his contribution to the Royal British Legion Scotland, which he joined in 1999.

Fellow Burma Star veteran Gordon Scott, 89, will attend the VJ Day event in London.

Mr Scott, who lives on the Isle of Bute, was a Royal Navy medic on the landing crafts in Burma and was involved in the final assault in Rangoon, saying: ''It was the biggest sea borne attack outside of Europe. There were bombings going on. We had to go up inland waterways a few hundred yards while being shot at on both sides from the jungle.''

He said it is important to remember those involved in the campaign in the Far East: ``We were getting letters from back home from family saying isn't it wonderful the war is over.

''We were 10,000 miles from home and still in the midst of kamikaze attacks. I don't want to witness anything like that again. I did nothing special and speak as one of the many thousands of medics who served in WWII and in wars since.''

The Act of Remembrance at the VJ Day event will be led by Lieutenant General Sir Alistair Irwin, national president of Legion Scotland.

Kevin Gray, CEO of Legion Scotland, said, ``VJ Day effectively ended the Second World War.

''It is one of the most significant days in our nation's history. We are honoured to host this special event to pay our respects to those who made extraordinary sacrifices for our freedom.''

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said:  ''Today's commemorations are a moment to reflect on the huge sacrifices involved in the conflict in the Far East during World War Two. The war in the Pacific continued for several months after it ended in Europe, and that period saw some of the most harrowing episodes of the entire war.

''This anniversary is an opportunity for us to pay tribute to those surviving veterans and to remember the many who did not return home.

''The war in the Far East saw countless acts of selfless courage, many of which will never be known or told, and today's events are a chance to pay tribute to all those who served.''

The First Minister will attend the commemorations in Edinburgh, accompanied by Veterans Minister Keith Brown.

Deputy First Minister John Swinney will attend commemorations in London.

Following the service, the First Minister will be joined in the evening by a group of veterans as her invited guests at the Edinburgh Military Tattoo.

The First Minister added: ``Our armed forces personnel and veterans deserve our respect and recognition. In addition to their outstanding contribution and service, they have acquired skills, experiences and values that continue to bring huge benefits to our society.

''It is fitting that we should end our day with the Royal Edinburgh Military Tattoo, showcasing our rich cultural heritage with performances by representatives of the armed forces of the UK and Commonwealth and others from around the globe.''

Around 300,000 soldiers in the Far East became PoWs, with only 200,000 surviving to see victory over Japan.