Britain celebrates 70th anniversary of victory over Japan
Published 15/08/2015 | 20:53
Veterans and their families gathered on Horse Guards Parade for a Drumhead commemoration to celebrate the 70th anniversary of victory over Japan, attended by the Prime Minister and Prince of Wales.
Royal Marine buglers and percussionists from Portsmouth piled up their drums to form a ceremonial altar at the centre of the parade, replicating the practice used by troops on the front line.
Crowds applauded as a Dakota, Hurricane and a current RAF Typhoon fighter jet flew past in tribute to the sacrifice made by thousands of Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen in the Second World War.
The world's oldest surviving Royal Navy Swordfish bi-plane was expected to also fly by, but a spokeswoman from the Ministry of Defence said a "last minute minor technical issue" meant it had to remain grounded.
The Right Reverend Nigel Stock, bishop to HM Armed Forces, led the service and paid particular tribute to those who served in the Far East who played a pivotal role in Japan's defeat.
Viscount John Slim, the son of Field Marshal Slim, read a passage from his father's memoir Defeat Into Victory.
He said: "To the soldiers of many races who, in the comradeship of the 14th Army, did go on, and to the airmen who flew with them and fought with them and fought over them, belongs the true of achievement. It was they who turned defeat into victory."
The veterans and their families, with current force members, sang the hymns Great Is Thy Faithfulness, Abide with Me and Guide Me O'Thou Great Redeemer with the Gwalia Male Voice Choir and the London Welsh Male Voice Choi.
Actor Charles Dance read Rudyard Kipling's Mandalay - a favourite marching tune for many in the 14th Army in Burma which was commanded by Lord Slim during the campaign.
It tells the story of a British soldier who was discharged from Burma, who recalls: "An' I'm learnin' 'ere in London what the ten-year soldier tells: 'If you've 'eard the East a-callin', you won't never 'eed naught else'."
The poem echoed across the parade ground accompanied by music of David Cole, director of music at The Royal British Legion.
Allied forces fought a fierce 12-day battle in Mandalay, Burma's second largest city, but managed to re-take the city on March 20 1945. The conquest ended Japanese hopes of holding Burma, and the 14th Army continued on to Rangoon, reoccupying it on May 3.
Charles, David Cameron, the chairman of the Burma Star Association John Giddings and the chairman of the Royal British Legion, laid wreaths by the Drumhead, while Camilla, dressed in mint green, watched from the royal box.
A message from Patricia, Countess Mountbatten of Burma - daughter of Earl Mountbatten who was supreme allied commander in south east Asia - was read in which she added her "warmest wishes" to the veterans gathered.
She said: "This 70th anniversary of the real end of World War Two is a good time to show our renewed, sometimes belated, gratitude for what was achieved in South East Asia as well as in Europe."
Lance Corporal Amar Pun from the 1st Battalion the Royal Gurkha Rifles performed Flowers of the Forest as the Lone Piper.
The veterans from the Far East campaign, their families and descendants, with current personnel, then paraded down Whitehall, through Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey.
Led by pipes and drums, the parade passed the statue of Field Marshal Slim and veterans then attended a reception in the the abbey's College Garden.