Captain Sir Tom Moore is encouraging the public to remember the British and Commonwealth soldiers who served in the Far East on VJ Day, which he described as “the most special of days”.
His tribute comes as the Royal British Legion announced on Wednesday its plans to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, to highlight the “forgotten history” of those who helped bring an end to the Second World War on August 15 1945.
On VJ Day, the charity is holding a commemorative service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire and is encouraging the public to take part in a two-minute silence at 11am.
Giving his support, Captain Sir Tom, a veteran of the Burma campaign, said: “For me, VJ Day will always be the most special of days, remembering all those who served in such challenging conditions in the Far East.
“It was VJ Day when the pain of war could finally start to fall away as peace was declared on all fronts.
“I respectfully ask Britain to stop whatever it is doing and take some time to remember.
“We must all take the time to stop, think and be thankful that were it not for the ultimate sacrifices made all those years ago by such a brave band of men and women, we would not be enjoying the freedoms we have today, even in these current difficult times.”
The charity had planned to take veterans back to the Far East on tours of remembrance, including visits to sites in North East India, Burma (now known as Myanmar), Thailand and Singapore, but they were no longer possible due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The legion has partnered with the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) to lay crosses on the headstones of fallen comrades in CWGC cemeteries in the Far East on behalf of those veterans who were due to attend.
Joseph Hammond joined the war in the Far East when he was just 18 years old, when he was drafted from Ghana to fight with the 82nd Division in Burma in 1943.
Mr Hammond said: “On the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, I will be remembering all my comrades who fought with me in the Far East.
“Many of us were away from home for several years not knowing what was happening elsewhere in the war and hearing little or nothing from our families.
“I would like to pay tribute to all those who fought in the Far East in extremely tough conditions against a very formidable enemy.
“On VJ Day, I will be thinking of those who made it home and those who didn’t.”
To inspire people to participate in VJ Day, the charity has launched an interactive map on its website to show the range of nations that service personnel came from and also to share the stories of those who lived through the conflict.