VJ Day: the soldier who survived heavy fire to see the end of the Second World War

Blogger: GemSen Today, August 15th marks the 68th anniversary of the announcement that Japan had surrendered to the Allies in 1945 - ending nearly six years of the Second World War. The day is known as 'Victory in Japan Day' or 'VJ Day' celebrating peace and commemorating all those who fought and lost their lives - around 52,000 Britons died including 12,000 prisoners of war.

The Memorial Day has even more significance to veteran Jim Clark — a Private in the Second World War who was posted to the Far East and made it through a fierce bombardment of Japanese heavy artillery to see the conflict come to an end. Today in commemoration of the 68th anniversary of VJ Day, the now 89-year old Mr Clark, from Kettering, is to make a special and emotional trip to visit the Chindit memorial at the National Arboretum, Staffordshire. Mr Clark will also reunite with some old comrades on the trip, made possible thanks to a Lottery Funded Heroes Return 2 grant. This scheme enables veterans to apply for funding to make trips back to places across the world where they served, or make a commemorative visit in the UK. Mr Clark told the Northamptonshire Telegraph: “Looking back I was very lucky. I made a lot of friends but a lot of them didn’t make it.” Under Fire and Fury of a Formidable and Desperate Enemy In the interview he recalls his battalion slogging it out for 14 days under the fire and fury of a formidable and desperate enemy and being pinned down in shallow ditches. Those that could, slipped back into the Burma jungle, but many never made it. In December 1942, Mr Clark was working as an apprentice grocer in Euston, Suffolk, when he got his call up papers. Aged 18, he joined the Royal Suffolk Home Guards, going on to complete a six-week motor training course on driving and maintenance, before joining the Royal Norfolk Regiment as a Private. Mr Clark’s regiment was then sent to Liverpool where they boarded a Dutch cargo boat which took them to Bombay via the Mediterranean and Suez. “We had no idea where we were going. We knew it was somewhere warm because we had tropical kit,” Mr Clark told the Northamptonshire Telegraph. After landing in Bombay the regiment then had a tedious 150 mile, week-long train journey to the unpleasant Deolali transit camp (nicknamed ‘Doolally’) which was known for its psychological effect suffered by the soldiers who passed through it. A long way from home, Mr Clark by the age of 20 was then transferred to the Kings Regiment, (Liverpool) to become part of the Chindits, a special force of British, Gurkha and Burma regiments. The Kings Liverpool Regiment, Chindits was part of the British 14th Army, also known as ‘The Forgotten Army’ and was assembled by renowned British Army Officer, Orde Wingate and was used to plan and carry out guerrilla warfare and long-range infiltration, deep behind Japanese lines. It didn’t take long before Mr Clark found himself caught up in the violent struggle to support the Indian Army 111 Brigade in their defence of a new Allied stronghold, called ‘Blackpool’, close to the Japanese northern front. It was set up to block the main Burma railway and road, cutting off a vital enemy supply line, but their position had been heavily attacked by Japanese troops. After a long 17 days of continual combat the Japanese launched a second assault capturing key positions inside the Allied stronghold. Those who could not be moved because they were injured beyond recovery were shot by the battalion medical orderlies and hidden in bamboo. “It was dreadful. We lay in holes day and night for nearly two weeks as the Japanese bombarded us with shells. We started to retreat. We were surrounded and were told to make our way back towards India. A lot of our mates were killed. We had to leave them behind in the jungle. Later we came across six Gurkhas who had been killed and we put them into a central grave.” Said Mr Clark. Mr Clark was crippled by a knee injury and had suspected diphtheria so was sent to a hospital in Shillong, Assam but rejoined his battalion after some leave. Getting ready to travel back to Burma, Mr Clark was in Dehradun, northern India when he heard the news of the atom bomb on August 15, 1945. He said:
“The day after we had a victory parade. We got dressed up in our best uniforms and marched through the streets. ”
After  a year serving in India during the unrest and lead up to partition, Mr Clark finally returned to England on the P&O troop ship Orontes, in autumn 1946. The Big Lottery Fund has extended its Heroes Return 2 programme to enable veterans to apply for funding to make second trips. The programme deadline for closure will now be end of 2015. For details call the Heroes Return helpline on 0845 00 00 121 or visit www.biglotteryfund.org.uk/heroesreturn. Source: Northamptonshire Telegraph [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=dw90C4MpHrQ] Search Japanese Prisoner of War records for free Many British and Allied military personnel were imprisoned in Japanese Prisoner of War camps, forced to live in appalling conditions starved, worked and beaten to death. The humanitarian terms of the Geneva Convention were largely ignored by the Japanese. Forces War Records understand that it can be hard to find information regarding Japanese Prisoner of War records so we’ve worked hard to provide a vast Japanese Prisoner of War database — available to search for free. The fully searchable database includes a list of World War II British Army prisoners of war (POW) and you can search by name, rank, service number, regiment, POW Number, Camp Type, Camp Number, Camp Location and notes. And to help you even further in your search you’ll also find a helpful tutorial on our site.
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