VJ Day: The end of the Second World War
Although Britain celebrated Victory in Europe in May 1945, thousands of miles away, British and Commonwealth Armed Forces were still fighting in the Far East.
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Lasting three years, the action in the Far East was the longest campaign of the war and the British troops were unable to take leave to go home. Their only hope of returning to their families was victory.
Hundreds of thousands of allied soldiers were captured as Prisoners of War and the prison camps became infamous for their harsh conditions and poor treatment of in-mates. Forced to carry out slave labour on a starvation diet and in a hostile environment, many died of malnutrition or disease. Sadistic punishments were handed out for the most minor breach of camp rules. Of the 300,000 soldiers in the Far East who became POWs; only 200,000 survived to the end of the war.
The Japanese finally surrendered on 14 August 1945 following the dropping of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The following day, Wednesday 15 August 1945 was declared as VJ (Victory over Japan) Day and signalled the end of the Secon World War although the Japanese administration did not officially surrender with a signed document until 2 September. Both dates are known as VJ Day.
Historic buildings all over London were floodlit and people crowded onto the streets of every town and city shouting, singing, dancing, lighting bonfires and letting off fireworks to celebrate. Those who survived would, finally, be taking the long journey home to their families. However, with POW camps scattered throughout the Far East, it was impossible for Allied recovery teams to rescue all of the prisoners immediately. For many, liberation came too late.
Everyone rejoiced that the Second World War was finally over, but celebrations were more subdued than they had been on VE Day. Many hoped that the war was the 'war to end all wars', and that its ending would herald an era of world peace.