Prince William addresses UK in tribute honouring veterans on VJ Day

‘We are forever grateful’: Prince William addresses Britain in TV tribute honouring veterans on VJ Day 75 years after his great grandfather King George VI gave a speech marking the end of the Second World War

  • William referred to WWII as ‘the most catastrophic conflict in mankind’s history’
  • He described how George VI marked ‘the moment the world had long prayed for’
  • The King had expressed his gratitude to the soldiers, and William tonight said, on the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan, that we are all ‘forever grateful’  

Prince William tonight addressed the nation to honour veterans on VJ Day, 75 years after his great grandfather gave a speech on the end of the Second World War.

The Duke of Cambridge described how King George VI’s announcement on August 15, 1945, marked the end of ‘the most catastrophic conflict in mankind’s history.’

Thousands watched George VI and the Queen drive down The Mall in an open carriage, as they celebrated the end of the war following Imperial Japan’s surrender.

Speaking on BBC One, William said: ‘As he marked the moment the world had long prayed for, King George expressed his pride in the international effort from across the Commonwealth and allied nations which secured success in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Duke of Cambridge addressing the nation during a televised tribute honouring veterans on VJ Day, 75 years after his great grandfather gave a speech marking the end of the Second World War

From left to right, Princess Elizabeth, Queen Elizabeth, King George VI, and Princess Margaret Rose wave from the balcony of Buckingham Palace August 15, 1945 on VJ Day in London, England

‘We are forever grateful to all those who fought alongside us.

‘It is hard for us to imagine what Victory over Japan Day must have felt like at the time; a mix of happiness, jubilation, and sheer relief, together with a deep sadness and overwhelming sense of loss for those who would never return home.

‘Today we remember those who endured terrible suffering and honour all those who lost their lives.’

The duke showed his gratitude to the wartime generation, which includes his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, who fought in the Far East and was aboard HMS Whelp in Tokyo Bay as the Japanese signed the surrender on the USS Missouri.

‘He remembers vividly his role in collecting released prisoners of war, a sign, as sure as any to him, that the war was finally over,’ William said.

He recited the words of the Kohima Epitaph, carved on the memorial of the 2nd British Division in the cemetery of Kohima, northeast India, which reads ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say.

‘For your tomorrow, we gave our today.’

He continued: ‘As we look back, we must not forget our responsibility to learn the lessons of the past and ensure that the horrors of the Second World War are never repeated.

The Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, the Red Arrows performing a fly-past over the city of Belfast in Northern Ireland, to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ (Victory over Japan) Day

Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Charles, Prince of Wales attend a national service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas

Prime Minister Boris Johnson (2nd L) shares a joke with veteran Bill Redston after a national service of remembrance at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas

‘We owe that to our veterans, to their families, and to the generations who will come after us.

‘As we mark the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day, to each and every one of you who contributed to the effort, I say, thank you, our country owes you a debt of gratitude.

‘Your bravery, and the sacrifices you made, will never be forgotten.’

The address was recorded earlier in the month at The Guards Memorial, opposite Horse Guards Parade, in London.

The Battle of Britain Memorial Flight (BBMF) perform a flypast at the VJ Day 75 Commemorations over the National Memorial Arboretum to mark the 75th Anniversary of VJ Day on August 15, 2020 in Alrewas, Staffordshire

On Saturday morning, the Prince of Wales and the Duchess of Cornwall led a two-minute silence during a televised remembrance service at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire.

In a speech dedicated to the hundreds of thousands of Allied and Commonwealth personnel who fought and died in the campaign, Charles said: ‘All too often those who served in the Far East have been labelled ‘the Forgotten Army’, in a forgotten war.

‘Many of the soldiers, nurses and other personnel felt anger and disappointment at how they were treated when they finally returned home from a war which, from the public’s point of view, had ended on May 8 1945.’

King George VI’s VJ Day speech, 15 August 1945

Three months have passed since I asked you to join with me in an act of thanksgiving for the defeat of Germany. We then rejoiced that peace had returned to Europe, but we knew that a strong and relentless enemy still remained to be conquered in Asia. None could then tell how long or how heavy would prove the struggle that still awaited us. Japan has surrendered, so let us join in thanking Almighty God that war has ended throughout the world, and that in every country men may now turn their industry, skill, and science to repairing its frightful devastation and to building prosperity and happiness.

Our sense of deliverance is overpowering, and with it all, we have a right to feel that we have done our duty. I ask you again at this solemn hour to remember all who have laid down their lives, and all who have endured the loss of those they love. Remember, too, the sufferings of those who fell into the hands of the enemy, whether as prisoners of war or because of their homes had been overrun. They have been in our thoughts all through these dark years, and let us pray that one result of the defeat of Japan may be many happy reunions of those who have been long separated from each other.

The campaigns in the Far East will be famous in history for many reasons. There is one feature of them which is a special source of pride to me, and also to you, the citizens of our British Commonwealth and Empire to whom I speak. In those campaigns there have fought, side by side with our allies, representatives of almost every unit in our great community – men from the Old Country, men from the Dominions, from India, and the Colonies. They fought in brotherhood; through their courage and endurance they conquered. To all of them and to the women who shared with them the hardships and dangers of war I send my proud and grateful thanks.

The war is over. You know, I think, that those four words have for the Queen and myself the same significance, simple yet immense, that they have for you. Our hearts are full to overflowing, as are your own. Yet there is not one of us who has experienced this terrible war who does not realise that we shall feel its inevitable consequences long after we have all forgotten our rejoicings of today.

But that relief from past dangers must not blind us to the demands of the future. The British people here at home have added lustre to the true fame of our Islands, and we stand today with our whole Empire in the forefront of the victorious United Nations. Great, therefore, is our responsibility to make sure by the actions of every man and every woman here and throughout the Empire and Commonwealth that the peace gained amid measureless trials and suffering shall not be cast away.

In many anxious times in our long history the unconquerable spirit of our peoples has served us well, bringing us to safety out of great peril. Yet I doubt if anything in all that has gone before has matched the enduring courage and the quiet determination which you have shown during these last six years. It is of this unconquerable spirit that I would speak to you tonight. For great as are the deeds that you have done, there must be no falling off from this high endeavour. We have spent freely of all that we had: now we shall have to work hard to restore what has been lost, and to establish peace on the unshakable foundations, not alone of material strength, but also of moral authority. Then, indeed, the curse of war may be lifted from the world, and States and peoples, great and small, may dwell together through long periods of tranquillity in brighter and better days than we ourselves have known.

The world has come to look for certain things, for certain qualities from the peoples of the Commonwealth and Empire. We have our part to play in restoring the shattered fabric of civilization. It is a proud and difficult part, and if you carry on in the years to come as you have done so splendidly in the war, you and your children can look forward to the future, not with fear, but with high hopes of a surer happiness for all. It is to this great task that I call you now, and I know that I shall not call in vain. In the meantime, from the bottom of my heart I thank my Peoples for all they have done, not only for themselves but for mankind. 

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