I received a really interesting email from a constituent, Mr Weston, this week.
Mr Weston contacted me about a petition to support a commemoration of VJ Day (Victory in Japan Day) on 15th August.
Obviously we remember VE/Victory in Europe Day each May, but less is made of VJ Day, which marks the end of all of the conflict of World War Two.
You can read Mr Weston's correspondence below and sign the petition here if you agree.
Dear Mr Bradley,
As a constituent of yours, I am contacting you to ask for your help in raising awareness of a petition aimed at establishing a commemorative day for VJ Day, 15th August 1945, in recognition of the suffering and sacrifice of Far East prisoners of war. To date, the petition has over 10,000 signatures.
My grandfather George Weston, was a corporal in the Sherwood Foresters. When he was taken prisoner, captured in Singapore in 1942. He was put to work on the Thai/Burma railway.
Many people know relatively little about the war in the Far East, not least because of the emphasis given to celebrating the end of the war in Europe on VE Day, some 5 months before the end of WW2. Over 50,000 UK servicemen were held as Japanese prisoners of war in South East Asia between 1941-1945. They endured three and a half years at the mercy of a brutal enemy who did not recognise the rules of the Geneva convention and inflicted unimaginable suffering; the men were beaten, starved, tortured, worked to death (literally, in many cases) and denied medical provisions which could have prevented countless deaths from an array of tropical diseases. Of those taken prisoner, twenty-five per cent were either killed or died during captivity.
When those who survived were finally repatriated, they felt largely unappreciated by a society which had celebrated the end of the war in Europe months earlier and seemed largely oblivious to the fact that half a world away their war - and their suffering - had continued unabated. They also felt completely overlooked by the authorities, who in addition to ordering them not to talk about the horrors they had witnessed, gave them little help as they struggled to deal with the physical and psychological legacy of their years of captivity; the vast majority of these men returned home suffering not only from a range of physical ailments requiring years of medical treatment, but also with profound psychological scars which lasted the rest of their lives.
For those who did survive, the experience would never leave them and many died long before their time.
After 3 and a half years in torturous captivity, my grandad made it out alive, by the skin of his teeth. Finally getting home late 1945. He was skin and bones and looked far older than his actual 25 years. Though rarely talking about it, little bits dropped out to my dad and his brother. We can't even begin to imagine the hell he and his fellow camp mates went through. But still even after all that, he was a cracking grandad, who I loved immensely. In fact he was my hero.
The time is surely long overdue for Far East prisoners of war to receive due recognition for all that they suffered in the service of their country. The establishment of a commemorative day for VJ Day, 15th August 1945 - the day which finally brought freedom for those who had survived captivity in Japanese prisoner of war camps and brought World War Two to an end - would be a fitting tribute to those who gave so much in the service of their country. These men sacrificed so much in order that we might live in freedom. Against all the odds, a few remain alive still, but soon this dark episode of history will be beyond living memory. These men were unable to forget what they had been through. Neither should we forget. We owe them.
Please support this petition (Grandad is 2nd left, middle row)