Duke of Edinburgh to feature in VJ Day commemorations

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Duke of EdinburghImage source, Reuters

The Duke of Edinburgh is to feature in commemorations marking the 75th anniversary of VJ Day - the day World War Two ended with Japan's surrender.

The 99-year-old, who retired in 2017, will appear on large screens across the country in a photo montage with other veterans on 15 August.

Other Royal Family members will mark the day, including Prince Charles who will attend a service of remembrance.

And the Duke of Cambridge will appear in a separate TV programme.

VJ Day 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 that there were 71,000 British and Commonwealth casualties of the war against Japan, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war who died in Japanese captivity. More than 2.5 million Japanese military personnel and civilians are believed to have died over the course of the conflict.

"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," Prime Minister Boris Johnson said.

"On this anniversary I want to remember what we owe the veterans of the Far East campaign."

He said they brought an end to the war and "changed the course of history for the better", while "many paid the ultimate sacrifice".

"That's why on this remarkable anniversary - and every day hereafter - we will remember them," Mr Johnson said.

As a young Royal Navy officer, the Duke of Edinburgh was present for the Japanese surrender aboard a warship, where he was second-in-command, in Tokyo Bay.

The photo montage will be a rare appearance for the duke, who has only been seen a handful of times in public since retiring - most recently for a military event at Windsor Castle.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will take part in a service of remembrance and thanksgiving at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire, which will be broadcast by the BBC and titled "The Nation Remembers".

Another programme, "The Nation's Tribute", will air pre-recorded from Horse Guards Parade in London and will tell the story of those who served in the Far East.

Prince William will appear to pay tribute to the sacrifices of World War Two Allied Forces.

'Time to remember'

A veteran of the Burma campaign - Captain Sir Tom Moore - has encouraged the public to join in the commemorations, describing VJ Day as "the most special day".

Image caption,
Captain Sir Tom Moore said Britain should "take some time to remember"

"It was VJ Day when the pain of war could finally start to fall away as peace was declared on all fronts," said Sir Tom - who raised millions of pounds for the NHS by walking laps of his garden during lockdown.

"I respectfully ask Britain to stop whatever it is doing and take some time to remember.

"We must all take the time to stop, think and be thankful that were it not for the ultimate sacrifices made all those years ago by such a brave band of men and women, we would not be enjoying the freedoms we have today, even in these current difficult times."

Veteran Joseph Hammond, who joined the war when he was just 18, said: "I will be remembering all my comrades who fought with me in the Far East,"

Mr Hammond, who was drafted from Ghana to fight with the 82nd Division in Burma in 1943, said: "Many of us were away from home for several years not knowing what was happening elsewhere in the war and hearing little or nothing from our families.

"I would like to pay tribute to all those who fought in the Far East in extremely tough conditions against a very formidable enemy."