Veterans enjoy VJ Day events in London

On the 15 August 2015, The Royal British Legion hosted the veterans of the Far East conflict during the Second World War, and people turned out in droves to see them.

Even before they arrived in London people were showing them respect, shaking their hands or giving them free breakfasts, and they went home having touched the hearts of all who saw them. No longer are they the "Forgotten Army".

The VJ Day events in London started with a service at St. Martins in the Field, followed by a Drumhead Service at Horse Guards Parade. Gordon Smith, who’d been a FEPOW for three and a half years after being captured in Java, travelled down from South Yorkshire for the day.

Gordon Smith with Lieutenant Commander Janette Cooper, taken just before he laid a wreath at the foot of the statue of Lord Mountbatten.

The service was full of touching moments, from Charles Dance’s stirring rendition of Rudyard Kipling’s The Road to Mandalay, a favourite marching tune for the 14th Army in Burma, to a Gurkha piper performing the Flowers of the Forest as the Lone Piper a top the roof of Horse Guards.

“The way the service had been planned and how it all came together, and how it meant something about the war and the war finishing – you could understand a lot more after that service.” Gordon Smith

But it wasn’t one individual moment that stood out to the veterans present, but simply the fact that the nation was talking about their service, and the veterans were at the heart of the service.

“I’ve never been to anything like that, and I appreciated because we’ve never had anything done for the Far East Prisoners of War, we’ve always been the Forgotten Soldiers.” Gordon Smith

After the service, veterans paraded down Whitehall to the reception waiting for them at Westminster Abbey.

Gordon Smith parading down Whitehall after the Drumhead Service at Horse Guards Parade.

“Well it were amazing, I thought, the way that people were clapping and cheering as we came out, and all the way down everybody supported us. We couldn’t have been supported any better, both the helpers and the visitors who were, they showed great respect to us.” Gordon Smith

At the reception veterans were able to relax and share their stories, with people crowding round to hear their stories.

“The highlight was talking to Prince Charles, and all the other people who came talking to me.” Gordon Smith

Gordon Smith talks to Prince Charles at The Royal British Legion's Reception for VJ Day veterans.

Some veterans didn’t just sit there and have a chat, with one taking a turn on the dance floor with HRH The Duchess of Cornwall.

Photo credit: The Royal British Legion/Vickie Flores.

“When we got it here, the way that everything had been done for us and how organised it was, it was amazing.” Gordon Smith

At the end of the day the veterans were whisked away by free black cabs, set up by the Taxi Charity, taking with them their Legion goody bags and their memories.

Photo credit: The Royal British Legion/Vickie Flores.

“The whole day has been enormous, and I’ve never had one like it for companionship. I’d like to thank all the staff at the British Legion who has helped me. They’ve all been marvellous to me, and thank you for it.” Gordon Smith

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