Queen joins veterans to mark 70th anniversary of VJ Day


The Queen has joined Second World War veterans to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day, when Japan surrendered and brought an end to the conflict.

Tributes were paid to thousands of Allied soldiers, sailors and airmen who sacrificed their lives as a service was held at St Martin-in-the-Fields church in central London, before a memorial event was staged at Horse Guards Parade.

The Metropolitan Police encouraged people to continue with their plans to attend the events following media reports that extremists were aiming to attack the commemorations.

Security was tight around the church in Trafalgar Square where the Queen - dressed in a dusty pink outfit and hat - was joined by the Duke of Edinburgh, the Earl and Countess of Wessex.

Hundreds of veterans gathered later on Horse Guards Parade for a Drumhead commemoration, which was attended by the Prince of Wales, the Duchess of Cornwall and Prime Minister David Cameron.

Royal Marine buglers and percussionists from Portsmouth piled up their drums to form a ceremonial altar at the centre of the parade, replicating the practise used by troops on the front line.

Charles, Mr Cameron and Royal British Legion chairman John Giddings laid wreaths by the Drumhead, while Camilla, dressed in mint green, watched from the royal box.

Crowds applauded as a Dakota, Hurricane and a current RAF Typhoon fighter flew past the parade. The world's oldest surviving Royal Navy Swordfish bi-plane was due to lead the flypast but did not take part due to a "last minute minor technical issue", a Ministry of Defence spokesman said.

Actor Charles Dance read Rudyard Kipling's Mandalay - a favourite marching tune for many in the 14th Army in Burma.

Veterans, civilian internees, their descendants and families along with serving members of the armed forces, then marched from Whitehall and through Parliament Square to Westminster Abbey - passing the statue of the 14th Army commander Field Marshal Slim - in a special 70th anniversary parade.

Along the route they were supported by military bands, and the final part lined by serving military personnel. A reception took place in the grounds of the Abbey, hosted by the Royal British Legion.

Mr Cameron said thousands of people had died and many others "suffered appalling injuries and torture" during the conflict to "preserve our freedoms".

"I feel my generation hasn't had to suffer anything like what these incredibly brave people went through," he said.

"It is completely humbling to think how these people suffered, to think how many people died, to think how brave they were and what they went through for our freedoms in this titanic struggle, it is truly humbling."

At the church service, a wreath was dedicated at the altar in memory of those who died in the fight against the Japanese and of those who died as a result of captivity in Japanese prison camps.

Maurice Naylor, who joined the Royal Artillery at the age of 19, told the congregation that after the bombing of Pearl Harbour, he was told how "easy" it would be to deal with the Japanese.

"At that time we did not know much about the Japanese," he said. "How ignorant and complacent we were. We didn't deal with them. We were defeated by the Japanese."

He recalled being forced to surrender in 1942 and becoming a prisoner of war, and referred to the "brutality" that was suffered.

George Reynolds, 97, who joined the Royal Artillery as an 18-year-old in 1937, became a prisoner of war when Singapore fell and recalled the words that were said to him and his comrades that marked the end of their ordeal.

"For you the war is over," they were told. "I wasn't ecstatic," he said, adding that he was a professional soldier. "I just took it as it came."

Standing over 6ft tall, Mr Reynolds had dropped to just five and a half stone.

Reflecting on what it was like to land back on British soil, he said: "It felt great. It was nice to see green fields." He now lives in Newport, Wales, and has 10 great-grandchildren.

There were an estimated 71,000 British and Commonwealth casualties of the war against Japan, including more than 12,000 prisoners of war who died in Japanese captivity.

More than 2.5 million Japanese military personnel and civilians are believed to have died during the war.