September 22 2014 Latest news:
Friday, August 15, 2014
Handful of surviving veterans hold remembrance service in Rock Park
VETERANS of the Burma campaign in the Second World War gathered to mark the 69th anniversary of VJ Day today (Friday).
The six remaining members of the North Devon Burma Star Foundation, now all in their 90s, were joined at the Rock Park war memorial in Barnstaple by family and honorary military members to lay a wreath and recall some of their experiences in the jungles of Burma.
And VJ Day, August 15, is a doubly special day for veteran Alf Turner, who this year was also celebrating his 95th birthday.
“It was quite a celebration in 1945,” he recalls. “I drove all the way to Poona (now Pune, in India) to get gallons and gallons of beer for the battalion.”
VJ Day brought six years of conflict to an end, some three months after the German surrender on VE Day.
However, thousands of British and Commonwealth troops were still fighting in the Far East, and came home several months later to a Britain which had largely forgotten about the war against Japan.
“I think some of the younger generation don’t realise what the war was like,” said Alf. “You here so much about the war in Europe but out there you were miles and miles from home in a jungle and nobody cheered you when you came into villages like they did in Europe.
“We were the forgotten army. I still remember on the train coming out of Burma to Malaysia listening to the wheels on the tracks and hearing a chap with his mouth organ and thinking ‘thank god we’re going away from this place’.
“We’ve got a very good branch here in North Devon but unfortunately we’re fading away year after year.”
Fellow veteran George Rice, 90, said: “It’s still nice to see our old friends and comrades who we’ve been seeing for 30-plus years.
“We’ve had good times and some sad times. The war is one of those things that happened and I was just pleased to get back.”