The royal family is to lead tributes to Second World War veterans as the UK commemorates the sacrifices of its Armed Forces and Allies on the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.
During a series of events throughout VJ Day, August 15, the royal family and Prime Minister Boris Johnson will lead the country in honouring those who fought in the Far East and helped to finally end the Second World War.
Mr Johnson has been joined by nine other global figures including US president Donald Trump, Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari and Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau in recording a video message thanking those who served.
In the Friendship of Nations video, due to be released ahead of commemorations, each leader will say in turn: “To all who served, we thank you.”
Mr Johnson said: “On this 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War, we pay tribute to the heroes deployed thousands of miles away in the mountains, islands and rainforests of Asia.
“Unable to celebrate the victory in Europe, and among the last to return home, today we recognise the bravery and ingenuity of those who, in the face of adversity, restored peace and prosperity to the world.
“Their immeasurable sacrifice changed the course of history and at today’s commemorations, we take the opportunity to say what should be said every day – thank you.”
In a letter addressed to the veterans of the Far East Campaign, Mr Johnson showed his gratitude to the 50,000 British and Commonwealth service personnel who laid down their lives in the war against Japan, half of whom died in prison camps.
He writes: “You were the last to come home but your achievements are written in the lights of the glittering capitals of the dynamic region we see today.”
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) August 15, 2020
The day began with a piper playing Battle’s Over at the Imperial War Museum’s HMS Belfast in London at sunrise, as part of a tribute entitled Waking Up To Peace.
Military pipers also played at dawn in India, Australia, New Zealand and Nepal.
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace was joined by military chiefs as he laid a wreath at the Cenotaph, Whitehall, London, on Saturday morning.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will lead a two-minute silence at 11am during a televised event, screened by the BBC, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.f
Mr Johnson will read the Exhortation before the nation falls silent and afterwards the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight will take part in a flypast over the arboretum.
The Duke of Edinburgh, 99, who served in the Second World War as a naval officer, will feature alongside other veterans on a number of large screens across the UK, including the Piccadilly Curve, in a photo-montage showing veterans today and when they served.
When Japanese officials signed the surrender on board the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, Philip’s warship HMS Whelp was moored nearby and he has said the ceremony could be watched through binoculars.
It will be a rare appearance for the duke who retired from royal duties in 2017 and has only been seen in public a handful of times.
In the evening his grandson the Duke of Cambridge will take part in VJ Day 75: The Nation’s Tribute, a pre-recorded BBC programme filmed at Horse Guards Parade where, alongside veteran testimony and a host of famous faces, the duke will honour and give thanks to all those who sacrificed so much during the Second World War.
Another aerial tribute will also be staged, with the Red Arrows roaring over the cities of Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London with the flight path to include the home of the Chelsea Pensioners, where three Burma Star recipients live in retirement.
For every soldier who returned home after fighting in the #WW2 Far East, their story didn’t stop there. Even back home in the UK & the Commonwealth, there were still battles to be fought and a country to rebuild. Read more ➡️ https://t.co/tJZ2sId6aa #VJDay75 pic.twitter.com/zLdpS0vZTu
— Royal British Legion (@PoppyLegion) August 14, 2020
The other world leaders who have taken part in the Friendship of Nations video, which will be broadcast at 10.15am, include Ghana’s president Nana Akufo-Addo, prime minister Scott Morrison from Australia, Fiji’s prime minister Frank Bainimarama, Malawi’s president Lazarus Chakwera, Sierra Leone’s president Julius Maada and the prime minister of Tonga Pohiva Tu’i’onetoa.
In a video message to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, Labour Leader Sir Keir Starmer said: “On behalf of the Labour Party I want to pay tribute to the wartime generation, who through the horrors of conflict showed us the spirit and determination that we need to always remember and always be grateful for.
“It’s important that as we face the challenges of today, we take inspiration from that generation.
“Through their community spirit and their bravery and their determination for a better world they’ve shown us what we can achieve when we pull together.”