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VJ Day commemorations to be held despite pandemic

Saturday marks 75 years since Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on August 15 1945, ending the Second World War’s hostilities.

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A wreath laid at the National Memorial Arboretum (Jacob King/PA)

A wreath laid at the National Memorial Arboretum (Jacob King/PA)

A wreath laid at the National Memorial Arboretum (Jacob King/PA)

The royal family will lead VJ Day tributes on the weekend as this year’s landmark Second World War anniversaries continue to be commemorated despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Saturday marks 75 years since Japan surrendered to the Allied forces on August 15 1945, ending the conflict’s hostilities.

The momentous anniversary comes three months after disrupted 75th VE Day celebrations, when the country faced an even tighter Covid-19 lockdown.

Commemorations were moved online, while people held socially distanced street parties from their doorsteps to mark the occasion.

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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will lead a remembrance service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire (Jacob King/PA)

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will lead a remembrance service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire (Jacob King/PA)

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The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will lead a remembrance service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire (Jacob King/PA)

In an address to the nation, the Queen evoked the wartime spirit by calling on the public to “never give up, never despair”.

On Saturday, the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall are due to take part in a private service of remembrance and thanksgiving at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire from 9.30am, which will be broadcast on BBC One.

At 11am, Charles and Camilla will lead a national two-minute silence in honour of those who lost their lives in the war.

A number of veterans will be present at the service to remember their fallen comrades, which will be followed by a flypast by the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight.

The Red Arrows will also conduct a flypast over Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London – the first time such a flight has taken place since the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.

Charities such as the Royal British Legion (RBL) and Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) are urging people to make virtual acts of remembrance this year, by sharing photos, tributes and stories on their websites.

Meanwhile, the Duke of Edinburgh will make a rare public appearance on large screens placed across the country displaying a photo montage of war veterans.

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Aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will take to the skies on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day (Richard Pohle/The Times)

Aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will take to the skies on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day (Richard Pohle/The Times)

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Aircraft from the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will take to the skies on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day (Richard Pohle/The Times)

The 99-year-old, who retired from royal duties in 2017, served on the HMS Whelp, which was present in Tokyo Bay when Japanese officials signed the surrender on the USS Missouri.

Later on Saturday, the Duke of Cambridge will appear in VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute, a pre-recorded BBC programme filmed at Horse Guards Parade where, alongside veteran accounts, William will salute people’s sacrifices during the war.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said last week that on the anniversary he wanted to remember the veterans who “were among the last to come home” and “brought an end to the Second World War” which “changed the course of history for the better”.

Fundraising hero Captain Sir Tom Moore, 100, called on the nation to “stop, think and be thankful” about the “ultimate sacrifices made” on VJ Day.

The coronavirus pandemic has meant the RBL cancelled plans to take veterans back to the Far East on tours of remembrance, including visits to sites in North East India, Burma (now Myanmar), Thailand and Singapore.

But the armed forces charity has teamed up with the CWGC to lay crosses on the headstones of fallen comrades in cemeteries in the Far East on behalf of veterans.

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Captain Sir Tom Moore has urged people to ‘stop, think and be thankful’ on VJ Day (Danny Lawson/PA)

Captain Sir Tom Moore has urged people to ‘stop, think and be thankful’ on VJ Day (Danny Lawson/PA)

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Captain Sir Tom Moore has urged people to ‘stop, think and be thankful’ on VJ Day (Danny Lawson/PA)

The RBL has also launched an interactive map and storytelling hub on its website to show the range of nations that service personnel came from and to share the experiences of those who lived through the war.

The CWGC continues to run its own online Wall of Remembrance, launched for VE Day to collate families’ memories and tributes.

Liz Woodfield, director of information and communication at CWGC, said: “Whether it is a simple thank you, a picture or a few lines of text, we want to collect as many tributes as possible.

“Despite trying circumstances, we will ensure that these men and women are remembered in perpetuity.”

The CWGC is also working with the National Museum of the Royal Navy (NMRN), National Army Museum (NAM) and Royal Air Force Museum (RAFM) to create a series of free virtual events for the public broadcast online from August 14.

PA