Victory over Japan Day 70th Anniversary Remembrance Ceremony

William Hickie, Royal Rifles of Canada, in Gander Newfoundland before leaving for Hong Kong.  William Hickie was from Jacquet River, New Brunswick.

William Hickie, Royal Rifles of Canada, in Gander Newfoundland before leaving for Hong Kong. William Hickie was from Jacquet River, New Brunswick.

This August 15th marks the 70th Anniversary of “Victory over Japan” Day. The official end to the second world was in 1945 when it was announced that Japan had surrendered unconditionally to the Allies. Since then, August 15th have been known as “Victory over Japan” Day, or simply “VJ Day.”

In the fall of 1941, two infantry Canadian battalions, the Winnipeg Grenadiers from Manitoba and the Royal Rifles of Canada from Quebec, were sent to reinforce the Hong Kong garrison following Canada’s offer to the British government. The Quebec Regiment, the Royal Rifles, had recruited from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia. Together, the two regiments joined together to form the “C Force” with a total of 1,975 personnel. The Canadian soldiers arrived in Hong Kong on 16 November and first engaged in battle while defending the Colony of Hong Kong against a Japanese attack in December 1941. Though most had limited military training, they fought against overwhelming odds and displayed the courage of seasoned veterans.

The soldiers had no chance of victory, but refused to surrender until Christmas day when they were overrun. Shortly after engaging in battle on December 8th, the 14,000 Hong Kong defenders were attacked by 52,000 Japanese soldiers. When the battle ended, the Crown colony had surrendered to the Empire of Japan. Those who survived the battle became prisoners of war and many endured several years of torture and starvation by their Japanese captors. Hundreds of these soldiers came from New Brunswick.

On December 7th 1941, Canada declared that it was in a state of war with Japan. Canada was the first to declare war on the Japanese Empire, followed that same day by the United States and the United Kingdom. Canada prepared to defend itself by increasing its forces along its pacific coast. Over 20 warships, 14 RCAF squadrons and over 30,000 troops were stationed in British Columbia. Canada also joined forces with the United States to clear the Japanese from the Aleutian Island off of Alaska. In addition to this, two Canadian RCAF transport squadrons airlifted supplies in Burma and India, communications specialist served in Australia and the HMCS Uganda, a Canadian cruiser, participated in Pacific Naval operations. Many of these soldiers, airmen and sailors were of New Brunswick and not all of them returned safe and sound.

When the Japanese announced unconditional surrender on August 14th, 1945, Canadians across the country took to the streets to celebrate. The formal surrender ceremony was performed in Japan’s Tokyo Bay upon the battleship USS Missouri. Now, August 15th is recognized as “Victory over Japan Day” or VJ day to Canada and the rest of the British Commonwealth.

To mark this very important anniversary and to honour those Canadians who fought bravely, the Fredericton Region Museum will host a 70th Anniversary of VJ Day Ceremony on Saturday, August 15 at 10am. The ceremony will conclude with a City Guard walk-by and a bagpipers lament. Attendees are invited to view a display of Andrew Flanagan’s private memorabilia from his father who fought in Hong Kong.

To mark this very important anniversary and to honour those Canadians who fought bravely, the Fredericton Region Museum will host a 70th Anniversary of VJ Day Ceremony on Saturday, August 15 at 10am. The ceremony will begin with violin solos by Sidney Murgatroyd, the great-grandson of Hong Kong veteran William Hickie. Base Commander Colonel D.A. MacIsaac will welcome guests with opening remarks and Lt Col H.A. Skaarup will provide the history of New Brunswick’s contribution to the war in the Pacific.

This event is free to the public and all are welcome to attend. The ceremony will conclude with a City Guard walk-by and a bagpiper’s lament. Attendees are invited to view a display of Andrew Flanagan’s private memorabilia from his father who fought in Hong Kong.

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