VJ Day 70: Countess Mountbatten of Burma reflects on anniversary
As the nation prepares to mark the 70th anniversary of VJ Day on Saturday 15 August, Countess Mountbatten of Burma has urged members of the public to attend and show their support.
Her father, Lord Mountbatten, was the Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia during the Second World War.
The Countess also served in the Armed Forces during the war, and ahead of Saturday’s major national commemorative events, has spoken of her experiences. She said:
I had three very interesting years’ service during the Second World War in the Wrens – the Women’s Royal Naval Service.
I started as an Ordinary Wren, which is the lowest rank and I remained one for a year and a half. I served in a combined operations base near Southampton called HMS Tormentor.
I was there over D-Day, which of course was extraordinary. The whole area was full of ships and then the next morning they disappeared just like that and of course one waited, terribly worried, as to who was going to come back.
After that I was keen to try and go overseas, but they were only taking some officers and no ordinary ratings at that end of the war. So I rather reluctantly said I’ll train and be an officer.
I went overseas to Delhi and I worked in what was my father’s rear headquarters and he used to come up and have some lunch or something which was very nice to be able to see him. I was there until the whole operation closed down and everybody came home.
It was a fascinating time. It changed one’s life completely serving in the Forces. I was particularly pleased because I did not want to do the sort of round of parties and things that you did aged about 18 in those days if you lived in that type of circle.
Lord Mountbatten was appointed Supreme Allied Commander South East Asia in August 1943. He arrived in India to take up his post two months later, to lead all of the Allied forces in the Far East theatre whether on land, at sea or in the air. Countess Mountbatten said:
His reaction [to the appointment] I think was really surprise as much as anything… he was very well suited to the job. I think he was quite surprised nevertheless.
He used to try every week to write a family letter home recording everything that he could mention that wasn’t censored. One had a good idea of the difficulties he was facing and his daily life.
One of the biggest decisions my father made was to continue to go on fighting through the monsoon because in those days you stopped fighting during the monsoon because the conditions were so terrible.
My father said we’re never going to get anywhere if we stop fighting so we have to go on.
The other great danger was getting malaria which meant you couldn’t do your job as a soldier. In the end they managed to get everybody to take that very seriously and they cut down the rate of malaria enormously.
On VJ Day there was a great sense of relief that at last this awful war was over, three months after it was over in Europe. So the principle feeling was great relief.
It’s very important as a part of history that none of these terrible periods of war we go through should be forgotten.
I certainly hope the general public would come along to support this event and show that all these splendid veterans and people concerned with the Second World War are not forgotten, and to show their gratitude. It wasn’t until the 50th anniversary that there was any real sign of gratitude shown.
I am sure the British public will, as usual, turn up trumps and come and thank them very much for what they did.
VJ Day 70
Her Majesty The Queen and members of The Royal Family will attend a series of events on Saturday 15 August 2015 in London to commemorate the 70th anniversary of VJ Day.
Members of the public are being encouraged to support this anniversary by lining Whitehall in Central London to watch a spectacular flypast of historic and modern military aircraft, view the drumhead service taking place in Horse Guards Parade on big screens, and cheer on the veterans as they parade supported by military bands and current personnel in honour of the role they played in the Second World War.
Visit VJ Day 70 for more information about the event and how you can take part. You can also join the conversation online by following #VJDay70.