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27th May, 2022

Wartime stories as Redditch remembers on VJ Day anniversary

Ross Crawford 18th Aug, 2020

REDDITCH paid its respects to those who fought for freedom on Saturday as the country marked the 75th anniversary of VJ Day – Victory over Japan.

The surrender of Japan marked the final end of the Second World War, global conflict that had cost millions of lives.

The British Army out in the Far East was largely seen as the ‘forgotten army’ with the focus seemingly on the European theatre of war.

Yet Commonwealth soldiers were engaged in deadly jungle warfare against a determined foe who was only defeated following the dropping of two atomic bombs.

British prisoners of war meanwhile were held in atrocious conditions, many dying before liberation came.

In Redditch two low key services were held.

In Astwood Bank piper Martin McKenzie was on hand as a large but socially distanced crowd gathered at the war memorial.

Wreaths were laid by Pam Emery, president of Astwood Bank Royal British Legion, and Councillor Craig Warhurst for the local authority.

In Redditch the service was held at the Plymouth Road War Memorial led by the town centre chaplain and vicar of St Stephen’s the Rev. Paul Lawlor.

He was joined by members of Redditch Royal British Legion and civic leaders including deputy mayor Councillor Julian Grubb, himself a former soldier, Coun Matt Dormer, leader of the borough council and Coun Bill Hartnett, leader of the opposition.

Jeff Farnes, chairman of Redditch RBL said: “For years the people who fought in Burma and the Far East were forgotten.

“Not for them the glory of D-Day, racing through to Berlin, the liberation of the concentration camps.

“But still they fought on. Meanwhile our prisoners of war endured terrible conditions so it’s very important indeed to remember VJ Day.”

A wreath was later laid at the war memorial in the town centre.

ONE Redditch man who fought in the Far East was Mohammed Sarwar Khan, who’s son Sgt Major Saheed (Sid) Khan is a well-known figure in the town.

Mohammed joined the war effort in Burma when he was just 13 years old, joining the Air Defence Regiment.

“My father had quite a unique story to tell of the ending of the war,” said Sid.

“He was on duty as a radio operator the night the message saying the war had ended came through.

“He deciphered all the dots and dashes, realised what it said, confirmed the message and then ran off to find his Sergeant Major, a big burly typical Sergeant Major.

“He was asleep, so he woke him up, told him the message and was told in no uncertain terms to back to his radio! The Sergeant Major then went back to sleep.

“It wasn’t until the next morning when he was doing the rounds with an officer that he realised the radio message had been genuine.

“It all turned out well in the end as from somewhere the Sergeant Major managed to find some sweets to celebrate the ending of the war.”

He added: “There are quite a lot of people in Redditch whose fathers served in the Far East and although my father found it difficult to speak of the war, it’s a great pity their stories have not been properly recorded.”

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