15th August 1945. V.J. Day.
Today a Wednesday in 1945 was designated as Victory in Japan (VJ Day); also the day when King George VI re-opened Parliament.(1)
Prime Minister Attlee at midnight said: ‘Japan has to-day surrendered. The last of our enemies is laid low’. Two days of public holidays were granted with many street parties and bonfires throughout the land, as the Author remembers.
The war on land was fought by the 14th Army under General Slim, largely in Burma and Malaya. against a Japan whose prize was always India.
Known as the ‘Forgotten Army’, once victory in Europe was attained, they had to fight an implacable Samurai cult which believed suicide was preferable to surrender.
Knowing this and weighing up the fact that an invasion of Japan would be at the cost of limitless Allied casualties and a considerable lengthening of the fighting, President Truman gave the order for the dropping of the first atomic bombs, forcing their surrender.
Following our defeat in Singapore in 1942, Britain didn’t return to the South West Pacific theatre of war until 17th May 1944, when a combined Anglo-American Task Force under Operation Transom attacked Surabaya Java.
Britain’s Cabinet was not unanimous on a commitment to a British Pacific Fleet (BPF), but Churchill was over-ruled when the Chiefs of Staff threatened to reign when he wanted to concentrate on Malaya and Burma where the bulk our troops were fighting.
It was estimated that 158 ships would be needed to cope with operations close to Japan, at a time when much shipping was needed to protect food imports. It meant that the War Cabinet in January 1945 postponed deployment of the fleet by 2 months.(2)
The Eastern Fleet at Trincomalee, Ceylon was re-organized into British East Indies Fleet, then the British Pacific Fleet which operated against targets on Sumatra.
In 1945 it departed to a base at Sydney, Australia.(3)
On 15th August 2015, London saw the 70th commemoration of the war against Japan which remembered, as well the casualties in battle and those who slaved to build the Burma Railway, those thousands, men, women and children, which included civilians, captured at Singapore, who died in POW Camps.
(1) HC Hansard 15 August 1945 col 53. The Commons which had been destroyed met in St Stephen’s Hall.
(2) Roskill War at Sea Vol III Pt2 pp 427-9.
(3) Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser struck his flag at Trincomalee as Commander-in-Chief of The British Eastern Fleet.
He then hoisted it on the Gunboat Tarantula, as C-in-C British Pacific Fleet, before before hoisted onto a more suitable vessel, the battleship Howe.
British and Commonwealth Naval force in being 22.11.1944 based at Sydney comprised one of the largest fleets assembled: 4 battleships; 6 aircraft carriers; 15 smaller carriers; 11 cruisers; 14 frigates 35 destroyers; 31 submarines and 55 support ships, along with 750 aircraft.
Ref: VJ Day/Parliament.uk/archives-VE and VJ Days.Image of Programme.