LAST weekend we had moving, joyous and thankful occasions not only at the Cenotaph, Westminster Abbey and Whitehall, but up and down the United Kingdom to celebrate the anniversary of VE Day – the end of the war in Europe.
But so often one heard the reported words describing the tumultuous events of 70 years ago as: “We were now at peace.”
We were not at peace.
Yes, we were liberated from the bombing and the threat of invasion from a defeated Nazi Germany, but our servicemen and women, and those of our Allies, were still at war in the Far East.
There, the battles went on, and there our prisoners of war (PoWs) were still suffering unspeakably cruel deaths, torture and deprivation at the hands of the Imperial Japanese army. The Allied soldiers called themselves the Forgotten Army. The real peace, the end of the Second World War, did not come until 14 August, l945, with an announcement on the radio by Emperor Hirohito of Japan, and Japan’s formal surrender on the 2 September, l945.
Only then could the surviving Allied PoWs and the troops start to be repatriated home.
My brother was among those Allied troops and did not get home from India until February l947. (They were put ashore at Southampton on a dreich, windy, winter’s day with nothing to wear but their tropical kit.)
These members of the Forgotten Army had also been disenfranchised – they could not vote in the general election which threw war-time prime minister Winston Churchill out of office.
Coming home as they did in dribs and drabs over years, they arrived to little fanfare. Small wonder they felt embittered and unthanked. When the anniversary of the actual end of the Second World War comes in three months’ time, the real peace, how, I wonder, are we going to mark it?
Another Cenotaph wreath-laying ceremony, another Westminster Abbey service?
Or will the Forgotten Army remain just that?