Bury and Mildenhall mark the day the fighting stopped
After 70 years, the numbers who fought to bring about Victory over Japan Day has dwindled to a hardy few, the youngest of whom are in their late 80s.
But the generations who have followed them turned out with those few on Saturday in Bury St Edmunds and Mildenhall to make sure their, and their comrades, sacrifice was remembered with gratitude.
In both towns, British and American service people joined civilian dignitaries and ex-service organisations for services in front of the war memorials and for the laying of wreaths on the anniversary of the day hostilities ceased.
Victory in Europe had been in May 1945, but it would take three months more fighting, and the dropping of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki early in August 1945, to defeat Japan, which finally signed the surrender on September 2.
In Bury, the home town of the Suffolk Regiment, VJ Day is particularly poignant. On August 15, 1945 many men of the regiment’s 4th and 5th Battalions had been prisoners in brutal camps, including the Burma Railway, since the fall of Singapore in February 1942.
For far too many the phrase ‘died at the hands of the Japanese’ would be written in red beside their names in regimental records.
The regiment’s 2nd Battalion fought the Japanese in Burma, including the Arakan and Imphal campaigns.
St Edmundsbury’s mayor Patrick Chung was joined by the mayors of Haverhill, Betty McClatchy, and Ipswich, Glen Chisholm, with Forest Heath chairman David Bimson, to lay wreaths in memory of their servicemen.
At Mildenhall West Suffolk MP Matthew Hancock was among those laying wreaths, along with Col Thomas Torkelson, commander of 100th Air refuelling Wing at RAF Mildenhall, though the Americans mark September 2 as VJ Day.