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Brandon Lewis

Time for us to reflect and show gratitude as we mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day

Brandon Lewis


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The Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay with Admiral Bruce Fraser signing on behalf of the UK. Japan’s current constitution was imposed after the Second World War. (Cross W G/PA)

The Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay with Admiral Bruce Fraser signing on behalf of the UK. Japan’s current constitution was imposed after the Second World War. (Cross W G/PA)

Press Association Images

The Japanese surrender at Tokyo Bay with Admiral Bruce Fraser signing on behalf of the UK. Japan’s current constitution was imposed after the Second World War. (Cross W G/PA)

Today Northern Ireland will fall silent as the entire United Kingdom comes together to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day. Victory over Japan Day commemorates when the war against the Empire of Japan, and the Second World War as a whole, came to a close. Often referred to as 'the forgotten war', it is marked annually on August 15; this year is a significant milestone, being three-quarters of a century since the world woke up to peace.

The war against the Empire of Japan was a multinational effort, pulling in over one million men from nearly 30 different countries across Asia, Africa, the Americas and Oceania. It is estimated that as many as 64,000 people from Northern Ireland served in the Second World War, including the Far East campaign.

In recent days, I had the privilege of speaking to a number of local WWII veterans as well as relatives of those who have now sadly died. It was immensely humbling to hear their wartime stories, and have the opportunity to personally thank them and their families for their bravery and sacrifice. Among those I spoke to were the family of the late Eric White, who was captured at Singapore in February 1942 as a prisoner of war. He was forced to work on the Burma railway. Eric was a corporal in the Royal Corps of Signals but on his release, discovered that he had been promoted to sergeant whilst in captivity.

Eric's courageous contribution, like so many others, was truly remarkable and his relatives are quite rightly proud of his actions.

Today, we pause to remember our heroes like Eric and all those who served and made the ultimate sacrifice on our behalf.

Along with their peers, from across the rest of the UK and further afield, they fought and suffered around the world in ferocious conditions. They witnessed incomprehensible horrors. They lost their lives - and many were imprisoned.

And they did all this for us - to protect the freedoms we enjoy today. VJ Day is a time for us to reflect and show our gratitude to our service personnel for their bravery, dedication and professionalism. We must never forget the sacrifices made and the extraordinary courage of all those who selflessly served our country throughout the Second World War.

Brandon Lewis CBE is the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland

Belfast Telegraph