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Harlow set to remember on VJ Day

Communities / Wed 12th Aug 2015 at 08:27am

Victory JapanTHIS Saturday (15 August 2015) Harlow’s former Prisoners of War and those who served in the Far East will be remembered as the 70th Anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) Day is marked.

While the war in Europe ended in early May 1945 it continued in the Far East. The Japanese finally surrendered on 14 August 1945. The next day, Wednesday 15 August 1945 was celebrated as Victory over Japan Day.

This important anniversary will pay tribute to all those who served in the UK Armed Forces in the Far East, including recognising and remembering Prisoners of War. This includes those who served in the famous 14th Army in Burma and helped secure victory.

In Harlow there are three memorials in the Town Park to honour the Far East Prisoners of War (FEPOWs) from Harlow. A memorial plaque and stone is located next to the war memorial and a bench and walnut tree can be found near the former Greyhound car park toilets. There is also a memorial plaque for the Burma Star remembrance garden.

The Chair of Harlow Council, Councillor Tony Hall, and the Vice-Chair of Harlow Council, Councillor Edna Stevens, accompanied by a member of the community will lay wreaths under the memorial tree on Saturday at 11am and read a short prayer to remember the veterans on the 70th anniversary of VJ Day.

The memorial tree, which was planted in 1984 by FEPOWs, was a place veterans would gather every VJ Day with family to remember and reflect on their time as FEPOWs. Up until last year services were arranged by Shirley Simpkin, former Secretary of the West Essex and South Herts Far East Prisoners of War Association, whose father David Coote Simpkin was a prisoner of war in Japan. The services were led by Reverend Albert Watson, now retired, and supported by members of the Royal British Legion.

Sadly all veterans who were members of the West Essex and South Herts FEPOW Association have passed away in recent years. The FEPOWs were always supported in the group by their wives, most of which were affiliate members and many Royal British Legion supporters.

Some of the veterans who attended the services were:

Harry (Henry) Howe

George Money

Alan Smith

David Coote Simpkin

Bob Twinley

Jack Delow

Mr Read

Mr Snow

Mr Trillo

According to the Royal British Legion around 300,000 soldiers in the Far East became POWs; only 200,000 would survive to see victory over Japan.

Shirley Simpkins said: “Mostly the men from the West Essex and South Herts Far East Prisoners Association were captured between 1941 and 1942 and were imprisoned until VJ Day. When they came home they felt that nobody understood what had happened to them and most never spoke of the things that did happen, not until recent years.

“The West Essex and South Herts FEPOWs were a fantastic group of men and their wives and families. They were a strong group of sincere and honest people I’ve yet to come across and it was my absolute pleasure to help them in any way that I managed to. We should never forget them and remember how they paid with their lives.”

Councillor Tony Hall, Chairman of Harlow Council, said: “On VJ Day we will remember those former prisoners of war from Harlow who are no longer with us but also pay tribute to all those who served in the UK armed forces in the Far East. When the Second World War ended in Europe in May 1945 soldiers and civilians in the Far East were still at war, still on the frontline and still in prisoner of war camps.

“For the 70th anniversary of VJ day it’s important that we raise awareness of the memorials we have in Harlow and the place in the town park where veterans would gather to remember their time as FEPOWs. We will never forget the sacrifice the veterans made for their country.”

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