15th August 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of the surrender of Japanese forces and the official end of World War II. In the UK, VE Day is the more marked of the two events for obvious reasons, but this year RBLI is looking to build awareness of VJ Day and more specifically the veterans who were still serving the war effort in the Pacific, long after VE Day.
“This is a military story of ordinary men and women of many races, faiths and cultures who worked together to defeat a deadly enemy,” says award winning historian Neil Storey who has worked with RBLI on the educational resources for its VJ Day awareness campaign. “They were told they were fighting for freedom, for rights and justice, for some it would be the first step on a very long road to freedom and equality. For some that fight still goes on. Many also continued a very personal fight against the physical and mental legacies they were left with for the rest of their lives.”
To help bring a new focus and appreciation for the service and sacrifices made during WWII, RBLI has launched a Special Edition VJ Day Tommy as part of it’s ‘Tommy in the Window’ campaign, including a 28 page booklet with help from Neil Storey. There is also an exclusive VJ Day web series on RBLI’s YouTube channel, featuring videos from Neil Storey to give us a better understanding of the experience of soldiers in the Far East.
And as Storey points out, the Burma Campaign was notable for its multinational and multicultural makeup. “It is often forgotten the Burma Campaign was one of the most multicultural in the history of warfare. When South East Asia Command was established in 1943 it encompassed over 40 different nationalities, included both male and female service personnel serving on land, sea and in the air and drew its greatest strength from the volunteer armies raised across India. Indeed, by 1945 the Indian Army had risen to over two million personnel, the largest volunteer army in history.”
A number of RBLI supporters across the UK are also looking to mark the occasion while raising vital funds for RBLI. Don Keiller will be doing an indoor skydive in Milton Keynes on Friday 14th August, just 4 days after his 100th birthday! Don has already raised over £4,000! Martin King will be running one mile, every hour, for 100 consecutive hours starting on VJ Day at 9am. The challenge will take him 4 days to complete! Martin is hoping to raise £2,500 to help RBLI continue to support some of the UK’s most vulnerable veterans.
You can learn more about VJ Day from Neil Storey as well as resource packs for teaching or setting up a VJ Day Party over at RBLI.co.uk/VJDay.