Veterans wearing medals, some in wheelchairs draped with the Union Jack, have paraded through central London to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory over Japan and the end of World War II.
The slow walkabout by the aging veterans recalled the pain and ultimate triumph of Britain’s four-and-a-half-year campaign in Asia. One twirled his cane. Others waved. Many saluted. Thousands cheered them on.
The moving moment marked the end of a day of ceremony and remembrance. Queen Elizabeth II led the nation’s commemoration, attending a morning service at St Martin-in-the-Fields, near London’s Trafalgar Square.
Some in the audience wore medals earned by their fathers and grandfathers – a proud show of remembrance from some who feel the war in Asia was largely overlooked by a country that focused on the struggle against Nazi Germany.
“I think it’s very important to the veterans because they feel that they’ve been treated as the forgotten army,” said Pauline Simpson, one of the organisers.
“Their comrades that fought in Europe came home in May 1945 and they came back to a huge welcome and celebration.
“And for many people in the nation it was the end of the war. But in actual fact for all of the men still in the Far East in captivity, many of them didn’t even know that the war had ended. And they didn’t start returning home until three or four months later.”
Classic British hymns such as “Abide with Me” rang out during the afternoon service as airmen, sailors and soldiers honoured the sacrifices of the men and women who came before them.
Prince Charles and Prime Minister David Cameron laid wreaths. A bugler played “The Last Post” as many dabbed tears.