Remembering the fallen
SIR - When you go home, tell them of us and say, for your tomorrow, we gave our today.
That is the Epitaph on the memorial at Kohima.
Saturday, August 15, is the 65th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, with the defeat of Japan. This is the day those of us who served in Burma, remember our comrades who lie buried in some jungle clearing in the Arakan, Kohima, Imphal or some other battlefield.
In Britain, the war was over, the dockers and miners went on strike. Lord Louis Mountbatten told us we could not expect reinforcements, supplies nor mail from home. Each serviceman would be accountable, in combined operations. The RAF would have to take their own airstrips and defend them, as well as servicing the aeroplanes.
Of the 305,000 Japanese troops sent to Burma, it is estimated only 118,000 ever returned to their homeland. How futile is war?
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The atom bombs were dropped on August 6, 1945 (Hiroshima) and August 9 (Nagasaki), which precipitated the end of the war.
Had these bombs not been dropped, there is no doubt that the Japanese would have continued fighting.
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I firmly believe, had it not been for the caring nursing sister, Sister Jean Rogers, in the tented hospital, at Meiktila, who, I am told, hardly left my bedside for two days, when I was struck down by typhus and was in a coma for two days, I would not be alive today. As it was, I was in Rangoon for the re-taking of the city and I now reside, in the parish of my birth, Sidbury.
At the cessation of hostilities, we were told there were no ships to bring us home, the Queen Mary, the Queen Elizabeth and other similar craft were being used to convey females who married American servicemen to the USA. We had no idea when we would ever get repatriated.
On the 50th anniversary of Victory over Japan, I was privileged to march along the Mall in London. HM The Queen took the salute. When we marched into the entrance to Buckingham Palace the Army, Navy and Roya1 Air Force assembled in the courtyard, we were called to attention and afforded the accolade of Present Arms. That command and salute brought tears to my eyes.
Today, I remember all our comrades in the 12th and 14th Armies, the Ghurkas and Sepoys who were left behind. The Burma Star Association is gradually declining, in membership, due to ‘anno domini’. Those of us still living will never forget. The Sidmouth Branch colours are laid up in All Saints Church, Sidmouth.
On Saturday, August 15, there will be a ceremony in London.
On Sunday, August 22, at the Parish Church in Heavitree, Exeter, we will assemble, as we normally do, to remember the sacrifice of our comrades.
Edmund T G Lee
‘Pax Vobiscum’, 53 Tyrell Mead, Sidmouth