British veterans mark WWII victory over Japan

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British veterans of World War II marked the 65th anniversary of the Allies' victory over Japan on Sunday in a solemn ceremony attended by Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron.

The prince and Cameron were among those who laid wreaths at the Cenotaph war memorial in central London in memory of nearly 30,000 Britons who died in the campaign in Asia, which ended with Japan's surrender on August 14, 1945.

About 12,500 of those who lost their lives died while prisoners of war.

"We must never forget the sacrifices made and the dedication showed by those who served our country in the Second World War," Cameron said in a statement ahead of the ceremony, which involved readings, hymns and prayers.

"They fought and suffered around the world in ferocious conditions. They witnessed incomprehensible horrors. They lost their lives -- and many were imprisoned.

"And they did all this for us -- to protect the freedoms we all enjoy today."

The war in Asia began with the Japanese bombing of the US Pacific fleet at Pearl Harbour in Hawaii in December 1941, and simultaneous attacks on British, Dutch and US possessions in Asia.

It sparked the creation of a huge force of soldiers drawn from all parts of the British Empire, known as the Fourteenth Army, who fought back in often horrific conditions in the jungles of Myanmar (then Burma).

Although the war in Europe ended in May 1945, it continued in Asia until August when the United States dropped atomic bombs on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, forcing Japan to surrender.

"I think it's very important to keep the memory alive," said veteran Peter Proctor, 88, who served with the Royal Air Force in Myanmar.

"They were the Forgotten Army. When the war ended in Europe there were great celebrations, people were saying the war is over, but it was still going on in the Far East."

© 2010 AFP

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