VJ Day in Ely a low key, solemn affair with poignant reminder of the 26 officers and 760 other ranks of Cambridgeshire regiment who died as prisoners of war
PUBLISHED: 14:44 15 August 2020 | UPDATED: 14:44 15 August 2020
Ely City Council with the Royal British Legion commemorated VJ Day at the war memorial in the market place on Saturday.
The mayor, Cllr Sue Austen, laid a wreath with the legion and town crier Avril Hayter-Smith offered a ‘cry of peace’.
It was all very solemn and low key with a small number gathering in the rain to mark the occasion.
Cllr Austen said that for many in the city of Ely and large parts of Cambridgeshire, the 15th of August VJ Day (Victory over Japan Day) has greater significance than VE Day (Victory in Europe Day).
She said at the end of October 1941, the Cambridgeshire Regiment, our local territorial arm, had left the county for an unknown destination.
“That destination proved to be Singapore where they arrived on the 13th January 1942 to find that the Japanese forces were already attacking the Malay peninsula,” she said.
“Within three days the Cambridgeshire’ were in action; they suffered losses but were still gallantly holding out when on 15th February there were ordered to surrender.”
The mayor said: “As prisoners of war the men were put to work on the notorious Thailand and Burma railway. By the time the war against Japan ended in 1945 the regiment had lost 24 officers and 760 other ranks.”
Cllr Austen said: “The mayoral chain is inscribed with the names of all past mayors and one of the links bears the name of J G A Beckett, mayor from 1977-78. Colonel John Beckett was one of those officers taken prisoner at the fall of Singapore but survived to return to Ely where he gave outstanding service to the community.”
The mayor added: “In these difficult times of the pandemic the city is unable to commemorate the seventy fifth anniversary of VJ Day as we would have wished.”
“I would ask you all to spare a few moments to think of the sacrifices made by the men of the Cambridgeshire regiment in the Far East, the impact on their families and loved ones and the effects that the imprisonment and hard labour had on those who did survive.
To commemorate VJ Day, Isleham bell ringers took their part in the national activities. At 10.58 the Last Post played by Ben Edwards, followed by a two minute national silence.
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