'More than ever, VJ Day is a time for reflection': Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden on honouring the victory 75 years on

Cheering crowds in Piccadilly during the VJ Day celebrations (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)
Cheering crowds in Piccadilly during the VJ Day celebrations (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

by Oliver Dowden, Culture Secretary

When we think about the Second World War, many people’s minds naturally turn to the Dambusters, the Blitz or to D-Day. However, Victory over Japan Day - or VJ Day, as it’s known - should be at the forefront of our national memory.

Undeniably, the circumstances of VJ Day were different to the celebrations and street party scenes seen just months before on VE Day. The atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki changed our world forever.

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    But VJ Day, too, marked a pivotal moment in our history, and is equally a time for reflection as we mark its 75th anniversary this Saturday (15 August).

    Countless remarkable acts of bravery

    The war in the Far East was brutal, vicious and one of unspeakable human suffering. Even today, tales of veterans’ experiences make for hard reading.

    There were countless, remarkable acts of bravery, innovation and courage from the British and Commonwealth armed forces in their bid to finally bring peace to the world. The Rifleman Tul Pun of the 6th Gurkha Rifles, was awarded the Victoria Cross for his actions on 23 June 1944, after charging an enemy bunker alone when all the other members of his section were killed or wounded.

    Private Frank Partridge, of the Australian 8th Battalion that attacked a Japanese post near Ratsua on 24 July 1945, began shooting at a Japanese bunker after his section suffered heavy casualties. Wounded, he rushed forward to take the bunker. Partridge too was awarded the VC for his actions.

    As well as those who fought, this conflict touched the lives of countless others. On this anniversary, we also remember Far East Prisoners of War and civilian internees. While thousands survived, many continued to be deeply affected by their experiences for decades to come.

    Crowds at Downing Street, London, cheer prime minister Clement Attlee after the surrender of Japan (Photo: Keystone/Getty Images)

    The Second World War was truly a global war. All across the Commonwealth, millions answered the call to serve, traversing entire continents and sailing across oceans to fight. Many paid the ultimate sacrifice, with more than 600,000 Commonwealth soldiers and civilians dying in the conflict.

    Honouring VJ Day

    As part of our commemorations this weekend, we are not only remembering the British heroes, but men like Tul Pun and Frank Partridge. Our moving photomontage, which is viewable both online and in train stations across the country, will showcase veterans from across the Commonwealth - displaying images of them as they served during the Second World War and as they are now, bringing the past and present together in a poignant tribute.

    On Saturday at 11am there will be a national two-minute silence led by His Royal Highness The Prince of Wales, accompanied by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cornwall, to reflect on the conflict and remember all those who served. They will attend a ceremony taking place at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire with the Prime Minister.

    The Red Arrows will take to the skies with fly pasts over Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London, and the BBC will broadcast a spectacular retelling of the conflict on Saturday evening - VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute.

    This will feature a star studded cast, military bands and projections onto the iconic Horse Guards Parade. His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge will pay tribute to the veterans and this extraordinary wartime generation.

    'Let us just stop for one day and remember'

    We will never forget the bravery and sacrifice of our greatest generation, and on 15 August we will come together to give thanks and pay tribute to those who served around the world and finally secured peace following this most brutal of conflicts.

    As Captain Sir Tom Moore so movingly put it, let us just stop for one day and remember what they did for us.

    I hope that these commemorations will inspire people to learn about this important part of our history and ensure their stories of heroism and sacrifice live on.

    We owe an enormous debt of gratitude to the Second World War generation, so I ask that you join us in giving thanks and remembering all those who served. Our VJ Day heroes will never be forgotten.

    The Service of Remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum, including the two minutesilence, will be broadcast on BBC One between 9.30am and 11.30am

    VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute will be broadcast on BBC One between 8.30pm and 10pm