The Queen has given thanks to those “who fought so valiantly” for today’s cherished freedoms on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall led a two-minute silence at 11am today to pay tribute to those who lost their lives in the war.
Prince Charles offered his ‘undying gratitude’ to those who served in ‘the Forgotten Army’ that battled against Japan in the Far East.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson and other world leaders have also thanked veterans of the conflict in a video message to mark VJ Day (Victory over Japan) today.
The Queen and Duke of Edinburgh – who himself was aboard HMS Whelp in Tokyo Bay as the Japanese signed the surrender aboard USS Missouri on August 15, 1945 – gave “grateful thanks” to all those who fought for the Allied nations.
The monarch would ordinarily attend VJ Day commemoration events, however she cannot attend this year because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The 94-year-old is currently staying at Balmoral Castle in the ‘Balmoral Bubble’, with a small team of key staff to look after her.
In the statement, the Queen said: “Today we mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day, which brought victory for the Allies and finally marked the end of the Second World War.
“Those of us who remember the conclusion of the Far East campaign, whether on active service overseas, or waiting for news at home, will never forget the jubilant scenes and overwhelming sense of relief.
“Amongst the joy at the end of the conflict, we also remembered, as we do today, the terrible devastation that it brought, and the cost borne by so many.
“Prince Philip and I join many around the world in sending our grateful thanks to the men and women from across the Commonwealth, and Allied nations, who fought so valiantly to secure the freedoms we cherish today.
“May the memory of their sacrifice and bravery remain with us always.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson will also 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.”
Today 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, this morning.
The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall led a two-minute silence at 11am during a televised event, screened by the BBC, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Charles and the duchess laid poppy posies and wreathes at the Kwai Railway Memorial, while veterans now well into their 90s looked on from benches dotted around the memorial, to maintain social distancing.
The prince’s wreath read: “In everlasting remembrance, Charles”, while the duchess’s poppy posy read: “In everlasting remembrance of your service and sacrifice.”
In a speech dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Allied and Commonwealth personnel who fought and died in the campaign, Charles said: “All too often those who served in the Far East have been labelled ‘the Forgotten Army’, in a forgotten war.
“Many of the soldiers, nurses and other personnel felt anger and disappointment at how they were treated when they finally returned home from a war which, from the public’s point of view, had ended on the 8th May 1945.”
Addressing the 75th anniversary VJ Day service at the National Memorial Arboretum, he added: “Let us affirm, they and serving veterans are not forgotten, rather you are respected, thanked and cherished with all our hearts and for all time.
“We salute all those who remain among us and offer our most heartfelt and undying gratitude to all those that have gone before.
“Your service and your sacrifice will echo through the ages.”
Earlier, Prime Minister Boris Johnson greeted veterans and laid his own poppy posy, while the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight made a low pass over the memorial.
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.
The Red Arrows were set to roar over the cities of Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London today, although the Edinburgh flight was axed this morning due to poor weather.
The flight path is due to include the home of the Chelsea Pensioners, where three Burma Star recipients live in retirement.
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.”