Havant remembers Forgotten Army on VJ Day
THEY were known as the Forgotten Army but the community of Havant was determined the memory of brave servicemen who brought about Japan’s surrender on August 15, 1945, would continue to live on.
Despite the inclement weather and ongoing coronavirus restrictions for social gatherings, specially invited representatives of Havant were joined by hundreds of people online in commemorating VJ Day – the day the Second World War was officially brought to an end more than three months after victory in Europe.
The significance of recognising the sacrifices of those who continued to fight in the Far East while Europe celebrated victory was particularly important for the Rev Tom Kennar who led commemorations from St Faith’s Church.
Mr Kennar said: ‘It’s very easy for those who live in Europe to commemorate VE Day and to see victory in Europe as the most significant but we forget at our peril the sacrifices made in the Far East, particularly those who were taken as prisoners of war.
‘We are the civic church of Havant and despite the restrictions it was vital we had a local service to remember local people who were involved.’
It was a sentiment shared by the newly elected mayor of Havant, Prad Bains, who laid a wreath at the war memorial attached to the church which remembers all those fallen heroes from Havant who made the ultimate sacrifice in the fight for peace.
Cllr Bains said: ‘We often remember VE Day on May 8 but it’s equally important we remember the Forgotten Army and the thousands of soldiers who were still fighting out in the Far East. It’s incredibly important we remember them on this VJ Day.’
After a private service inside the church in which numbers were restricted to 50 people, the congregation moved outside to continue the ceremony with the laying of poppy wreaths at the war memorial which was followed by the ringing of the church bells.
For many of the town’s residents who attended the socially distanced public ceremony it was a very personal experience.
Maxine Robin, 58, is from Teignmouth in Devon and is currently visiting friends in Havant. She felt compelled to attend in honour of the memory of her great uncle, Fred Rowell, who died in 1943 as a prisoner of war.
Maxine said: ‘The conditions they lived in were horrendous. My uncle died while working on the Death Railway built by the Japanese between Thailand and Burma.’
Husband, Gordon Robin, 65, added: ‘It’s really important to remember VJ Day. There was a big celebration after victory in Europe but very little recognition of those who returned months later from the Far East. It was a disgrace really.’
Former mayor of Havant, Faith Ponsonby, attended the ceremony proudly wearing the medals of her father who served in both World Wars.
Faith said: ‘My father was most proud of his Haakon Cross medal which he was awarded in 1945 after he flew into Norway as part of the peace process after the surrender of Germany. Not so much is made of VJ Day but it’s important we remember all those who gave their lives.’