Two of North Devon’s last surviving Burma Star veterans turned out to marl the 74th anniversary of VJ Day in Barnstaple today (Thursday, August 15).

The 74th VJ Day remembrance service at Barnstaple's Rock Park. Picture: Tony GussinThe 74th VJ Day remembrance service at Barnstaple's Rock Park. Picture: Tony Gussin

Marking the end of the Second World War, when Japan surrendered, the annual memorial service at Rock Park is organised by Barnstaple Royal British Legion and the Burma Star Association.

Many of North Devon's veterans who served in the Far East have now passed away, but George Rice, aged 96 from Combe Martin and Gordon Short, aged 98, from Burrington, attended as they do each year.

The service was led by the Reverend David Fletcher, with British Legion standard bearers, the Last Post and Reveille by bugler Albert Hall, a minute's silence and laying of wreaths.

Afterwards there was a short memorial service at the nearby oak tree in the park, planted in memory of the Far East prisoners of war.

The 74th VJ Day remembrance service at Barnstaple's Rock Park. Picture: Tony GussinThe 74th VJ Day remembrance service at Barnstaple's Rock Park. Picture: Tony Gussin

The memorials are very important to Mr Short and Mr Rice, but they also have an ongoing friendly 'dispute' over who has seniority in rank.

Mr Rice served with the Royal Air Force on secondment to the Indian Air Force, while Mr Short finished as a captain with the army.

Mr Rice joined up when he was just 15-years-old, before the war, and rose through the ranks.

During his time with the IAF he served in West Burma and the North West Frontier region and is keen for people to remember the 'forgotten army' as the Far East troops were sometimes known.

Burma Star veterans George Rice and Gordon Short at the Barnstaple Rock Park memorial following the 74th VJ Day remembrance service. Picture: Tony GussinBurma Star veterans George Rice and Gordon Short at the Barnstaple Rock Park memorial following the 74th VJ Day remembrance service. Picture: Tony Gussin

He said: "I think it's very important for people to remember - the more we can get to remember, especially children, the better, otherwise we shall be a forgotten lot, as we were out there."

Mr Short rose form acting lance corporal in the quartermaster's office of the Devonshire Regiment to captain.

He served in Burma on secondment to the Royal West Kents and joined the regiment in the country the night before the battle of Kohima.

He fought for weeks in what became known as the 'Battle of the DC's Tennis Court', with heavy shelling and fierce hand-to-hand fighting in the garden of the deputy commissioners' bungalow, hence the name.

The 74th VJ Day remembrance service at Barnstaple's Rock Park. Picture: Tony GussinThe 74th VJ Day remembrance service at Barnstaple's Rock Park. Picture: Tony Gussin