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Royal British Legion commemorate VJ Day in Harleston





Armed Forces groups marked the end of the Second World War as they commemorated Victory in Japan Day this week.

Unlike VE Day, which is marked by street celebrations and charity collections, VJ Day is often met with much less, if any, recognition.

That did not stop members of the Royal British Legion (RBL) from flying the Union flag at Harleston war memorial on Tuesday – as a mark of respect for the four Harleston men who lost their lives in the Far East campaign.

Terry Pegg, Branch secretary of the Harleston Royal British Legion at the town's memorial to mark VJ Day. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.
Terry Pegg, Branch secretary of the Harleston Royal British Legion at the town's memorial to mark VJ Day. Picture: Mark Bullimore Photography 2022.

Terry Pegg, branch secretary of the Harleston RBL, explained how soldiers that died in countries such as Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Japan during the war are often overshadowed by their comrades on the Western Front.

“Soldiers that fought in the Far East during the Second World War are always referred to as the ‘forgotten army’,” said Mr Pegg, 66, who lives in Pilgrims Way, in Harleston.

“Everyone imagines that the Second World War finished on VE day, but it didn’t finish until VJ day.

“Because Europe is closer to home, a lot of people don’t realise that we were still fighting all over the Far East.”

The Union Flag went up to commemorate Company Sergeant Major Charles Henry Chamberlain, 34, and Corporal Walter Wisken, 29 – both of the 4th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment – along with Private Leonard George Howard, 34, and Private James Robert Loome, 40 – of the 5th Battalion Royal Norfolk Regiment.

All four men died at the hands of Japanese soldiers during the Pacific War.

Others that returned to Harleston – and were also commemorated – included Ted Flint, Wally Newby, Billy Blyth, Charlie Keeble, Lenny Bond, Albert Brown, and John and Sydney Reeder.

While no commemorations went up in Diss on Tuesday, Robert Rodgers, branch secretary of the Diss and District Royal British Legion, said he hopes this will soon change, especially given the prevalence of East Anglian troops in the Pacific War.

“There hasn’t been any mention of it,” said Mr Rodgers, 69, who lives in Farthing Close, in Diss.

“We remember VE day but very few people ever mention VJ Day.

“The Norfolks were out there in the Far East so it’s more of an event for the locals than VE day, but it never gets a mention.

“It should be commemorated round here, but it isn’t.”

According to the Swaffham Museum, around 2,000 men from the 4th, 5th and 6th Royal Norfolk Regiment Territorial Battalions served in the Far East Campaign.

Around 600 of those would never return to Norfolk.

Estimates suggest 380,000 British soldiers died in the conflict.



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