Saturday 15 August marks the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day), which ended all hostilities of the Second World War. Whilst peace had arrived in Europe in May 1945, those fighting in the Far East continued until Japan’s surrender in the wake of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki atomic bombs.
Japan’s early successes in the Far East during the war resulted in tens of thousands of British serviceman being taken prisoner. Never before, or since, have such large numbers in Britain’s Armed Forces been subjected to such extremes of geography, disease and man’s inhumanity to man, as were the prisoners of the Japanese. Around a quarter died in captivity, the rest returned home sick and damaged.
Japanese military philosophy held that anyone surrendering was beneath contempt. As a result, their treatment of captives was harsh. The average prisoner received less than a cup of filthy rice a day. The amount was so meagre that gross malnutrition led to loss of vision or unrelenting nerve pain. Red Cross parcels were deliberately withheld and prisoners tried to supplement their rations with whatever they could barter or grow themselves.
Diseases were rife. Malaria and dysentery were almost universal. Sadistic punishments were handed out for the most minor breach of camp rules. On top of these horrific conditions, the majority of prisoners worked as slave labourers to keep Japan’s heavy industry going.
The returning servicemen often had difficulty in telling their family and friends about what they had been through. Often feeling shame and guilt at having surrendered and survived, they decided not to speak about it. Having overcome appalling adversity during the war, they had to do so in peace-time as they were so haunted by the horrors they had endured.
The museum would like to thank Sqn Ldr Phil Marston MBE BA RAF (Retd) of Uppingham who has kindly shared with us the story of his late father, Sergeant Philip Edward Marston (known as Ted), who served with the Royal Army Medical Corps. Ted was a Prisoner of War in Japanese hands in Malaya for over three years. His son believes that he also spent some time in the notorious Changi Jail in Singapore.
Please click on the photograph below to find out more about Ted Marston…
For more insights in to VJ Day, with local and international information, please visit the special web page on our Oakham Castle website: