Belfast Telegraph

Burma Star veterans gather at remembrance service for emotional last march

Northern Ireland veterans who fought in Burma during the Second World War have marched for the last time to the Cenotaph at Belfast City Hall.

Several hundred people gathered to watch the final Burma Star Association Victory over Japan Day (VJ) parade yesterday.

The ceremony also marked the 65th anniversary of VJ Day which brought to an end the war against the Japanese in the Pacific.

The Northern Ireland branch of the Burma Association was formed in 1952 with 154 members and includes retired soldiers from the Army, Navy and Royal Air Force.

The average age of the 44 remaining members of the Burma Star Association is now 85.

Among the dozen veterans — some in wheelchairs — who gathered was 90-year-old James Lennon from Bangor, Co Down.

Mr Lennon served in Burma from 1942 to 1945.

“I am thankful to be here and I am thinking about all the comrades that were with us all through the years,” he said.

“It is an emotional time.”

Speaking ahead of the parade Anne Hijazi, organising secretary of the association, explained: “Membership of the association is dwindling and is now down to 44 — average age 85 — with only these dozen fit to turn out at the Cenotaph ceremony.”

The veterans lined up in Donegall Square West for the march to lay a wreath and were led by 81-year-old Merchant Navy mariner Captain Brian Rodgers.

The final parade was held under the command of Highlander Sergeant Major Chris Collins.

The association at its height had 15,500 members with branches throughout the UK and worldwide.

It was formed to look after the welfare of all who served in the Burma campaign and to assist any in need or |distress.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall led veterans in a service in London marking the 65th anniversary of VJ Day later yesterday.

The prince laid a wreath at the Cenotaph to mark the loss of almost 30,000 UK lives in the Far East.

Burma Star veterans will gather once more on October 3 at St Anne’s Cathedral for a special service which will involve the Burma Star standard being laid up.

Belfast Telegraph

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