Officially, the Second World War ended on 2 September 1945, when Japan signed the surrender document. However, the announcement that Japan had accepted the Allied surrender terms on 15 August is widely celebrated as VJ Day – Victory in Japan.
Seventy years on from this historic date, Second World War veterans and prisoners of war (POWs), now in their 80s and 90s, share their poignant memories of VJ Day and the events leading up to it, They have also shared their personal photos and posed for portraits by Getty Images photographer Christopher Furlong
Ken Watson, now 89, served in the Royal Navy during the war. He signed up shortly after his 17th birthday in 1943 and started out on a training course at HMS Bristol. He then joined HMS Vindex, a converted banana boat, and served aboard throughout the latter part of the war. He was in Sydney on VJ Day where he remembers meeting local girls, going out for a meal and swimming. Soon after this, they sailed to Hong Kong to repatriate PoWs back to Australia. A few weeks after this, they went to Hiroshima. Watson has said: "I still get very emotional about the human cost of Hiroshima even though this helped to bring the war to a quicker end.
Harold Robinson, now 95, was serving in India with the Royal Marines when he heard on the radio that the Americans had dropped the atom bomb and it would be a matter of days before Japan surrendered. At the time, Harold was completing jungle training and was just days away from flying to Malaysia to fight the Japanese. But after the bombs dropped, he joined 750 other Marines in Singapore to free PoWs from Changi jail and lock up Japanese soldiers. He recalls that most of the POWs were Australians who were living in Singapore at the time of its surrender to the Japanese. There were also lots of British civilian POWs, but not many British soldiers. Many were extremely ill when they left the jail as they'd been poorly treated while in captivity. Robinson recalls the Japanese didnt put up much resistance when they were forced into the jail
Marsali Wood, now 89, served in the First Aid Nursing Yeomanry (FANY) but behind the cover of the nursing yeomanry she was a wireless operator in India for the Force 136 Special Operations Executive (SOE) receiving coded messages from agents in occupied territory from 1944-1945. She was based in Calcutta on VJ Day and remembers that word spread very quickly when the war was finally over, and everyone was excited. Fifty wireless operators sailed back to the UK on RMS Mauretania, along with 6,000 troops.
Bill Caster, now 93, was serving with the RAF as an air gunner in the Far East on VJ Day. After the Japanese surrendered he remembers the soldiers had to bow when planes flew in to drop off medical supplies to PoWs. He doesn't recall a big celebration after VJ Day, it was just a relief that the war was over. He lost lots of comrades and even after the war ended, he narrowly escaped death when the plane he should have been travelling in exploded on take-off killing everyone on board in September 1945. Caster had previously been fighting in Europe and served during the Normandy landings. He volunteered to support the war effort in the Far East and is one of the few who hold campaign medals for the Normandy landings and the Far East.
Peter Andrews, now 90, was 21 at the time of VJ Day, and had not long been home from Germany. He had been a PoW for almost three months at Stalag 7A PoW camp in Moosburg near Munich until its liberation by the Americans on 29 April 1945. He had been serving with RAF Bomber Command and was shot down on 14 February 1945. He had flown 19 bombing missions up until that point. He said: "By VJ Day I was at home in Tunbridge Wells. I had largely got over the effects of being a PoW and was settling back into English life. I'd been given extra ration vouchers, no doubt to fatten me up, so I was feeling better. On VJ Day itself I went to a few local pubs and an event at the local assembly hall where an event was being held to mark the occasion."
Jack Gordon, now 92, was serving in the Royal Navy in Japan on VJ Day. When the news was announced, he failed to believe that victory had been declared as he knew just how hard the Japanese fought – especially as his ship was attacked by the Japanese on the actual day. There was no big celebration, more a relief that he would finally be returning home. But even before he made it back to Portsmouth, he sailed into Hong Kong for the official signing of the surrender papers and learned there were suicide boats lined up along the harbour. Thankfully none exploded but Gordon expected the Japanese would have a last ditch attempt to kill the enemy. He recalls one comrade was shot and killed by a Japanese sniper. Thats why it didn't feel real to Gordon having fought the Japanese for months, he knew they wouldn't surrender easily. On his return to Portsmouth, he remembers seeing lots of people cheering and waving their arms as they lined the harbour. It was the best feeling ever after spending such a long time at sea. Those two months at sea were the worst experience of his life, he says.
Mildred Tunbridge, now 90, spent three years in Lungwha Camp near Shanghai from 1942 to 1945 as a civilian internee. She was the daughter of a Royal Marine. Born in Shanghai she was captured with her siblings and mother from their 10-bedroom house in the city. She was ordered to work in the camp kitchens where everyone survived on very small amounts of rice and sometimes little bits of bread. She would sew small pieces of bread into her apron and secretly share them with her brother. Her mother contracted TB and was taken out of the camp to hospital for a year. They weren't allowed to write to her and they had no idea of how she was doing. On VJ Day itself, an American plane flew overhead spelling out V1, none of them could work out what it meant, they couldn't possibly imagine that war was over. Eventually, after taking a job with the American post office she moved back to London and started dating. She says she couldn't believe that she could go to dance halls unchaperoned.
Brian Carter, now 90, served in the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve during the Second World War. At just 18 years old he was one of the youngest naval officers to engage in prolonged action on the Normandy beaches during Operation Overlord. After D-Day he was sent to the Far East and was captain of a ship there. He remembers the celebrations that took place on board the boat on VJ Day as the sailors brought the rum out. As Carter was captain and he didn't want anyone falling over the side of the boat drunk, he went around tying people to the boat if they were in danger of falling overboard. Luckily, no one did, he remembers.
The Royal British Legion will join the nation in commemorating the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan (VJ) Day on Saturday 15 August and will be hosting veterans and their families at a reception after the national events in London.