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Last Updated: Sunday, 14 August 2005, 00:01 GMT 01:01 UK
Memories of the 'forgotten army'
By Katherine O'Shea
BBC News website

Veteran salute
For many veterans, VJ Day meant release from POW camps
As they prepare to mark the 60th anniversary of the Victory in Japan, three veterans have described their own reasons for remembering the event.

British soldiers in the Far East are often called the "forgotten army".

But their contribution will be honoured in a service at the Imperial War Museum on Monday.

Neville Hogan, John Hamilton and Gordon Graham reveal very different memories of VJ Day.

NEVILLE HOGAN MBE Second Battalion Burma Rifles

Deep in the Burmese jungle, Neville Hogan had no idea that the war was over. He suspects he carried on fighting for several days unnecessarily.

"News just took a while to filter through. We had no radios, and no time to listen to the BBC."

Mr Hogan has never forgotten the contribution of his people, the Karen, an ethnic minority in Burma, who he describes as the "backbone of the army" in the region.

They are now living on the Thai-Burmese border, having been forced out by the government. Mr Hogan, unable to return to Burma under the current regime, lobbies for them in London.

Mr Hogan cannot forgive the Japanese for brutalities that he witnessed in Burma.

"As a soldier, I admire them. As a man, I detest them".

JOHN HAMILTON First Gambia Battalion

In Madras, John Hamilton was with a group of Indian Army engineers, preparing to invade Malaya.

For these men, Victory in Japan was a miraculous reprieve, and celebrations lasted well into the night.

This Monday Hamilton will remember his Battalion of 100,000 African volunteers. He calls them "the forgotten part of the forgotten army".

POWs on VJ Day (Imperial War Museum)
Prisoners of war celebrated their release on VJ day

He feels that the African contribution to the war is not sufficiently appreciated by either Britain or Africa.

"The Africans participated entirely voluntarily, and were fearless and skilful fighters" he said.

Mr Hamilton said he also respected the Japanese Army.

"The uninhabited jungle meant that our fighting was straightforward- I even saw their chivalrous side. "

"They would never shoot stretcher bearers", he said.

GORDON GRAHAM First Battalion Queen's Own Cameron Highlands

In Delhi's censors office, Gordon Graham received a sudden flurry of reports to be sent to London newspapers. Scanning them for sensitive information, he was amazed to discover the Japanese surrender.

But he did not celebrate VJ Day. The atmosphere was very subdued in Delhi, he says.

"People were shocked and very disturbed by the atom bomb. They felt that we were winning the war anyway and that there was no need to wipe out all these civilians."

Gordon Graham wants to remember the lessons learned from war. He dislikes nationalism and would prefer to see VJ Day as an opportunity to work towards international reconciliation.

Graham never hated the Japanese. "We were all victims," he said.

He believes his values were irrevocably changed by war.

"You value a dry piece of ground. You value an act of kindness. You value being alive."



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