August 14th 2020

The stories of VJ Day

VJ Day 75

75th anniversary of Victory in Japan Day

The 15th of August 2020 marks the 75th Anniversary of the Victory in Japan Day (VJ Day), the end to all hostilities in the Second World War.

Whilst peace was announced in Europe on the 8th of May (VE Day) fighting still continued in the east, until Imperial Japan’s surrender in the wake of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. In commemoration for those who were lost in the Second World War, we share with you some of the incredible stories from the time.

Reverend Captain Charles’ Story

Charles wife Rachel

Charles wife Rachel holding memorabilia of her late husband

Rachel Howell’s late husband was Reverend Captain Charles Ernest Alcock (later Howell) who volunteered for the Army immediately after the war broke out.

Reverend Charles was appointed chaplain to the 4th Norfolks and was sent out to Singapore.  The 4th Battalion arrived in Singapore shortly before the Japanese attacked the island and took part in intensive fighting, before the British surrender on 8 February.  The survivors were marched to Changi Prison to begin almost 4 years of brutal and pitiless imprisonment.

Many of the survivors were sent to work on the Thai Burma ‘Death’ Railway.  Reverend Charles was responsible for the spiritual welfare and support of his men of the 4th Norfolks. He was one of few allowed to travel between camps, and was therefore able to transport forbidden radio parts hidden in his Holy Communion case.

Many of Charles’s men sadly died on the Railway from disease, starvation or punishment, and Charles held funerals for each and every one of them.  He noted down in a book and on maps meticulous personal details and the exact place of burial of each one. The book is now on display at Alrewas Changi Hut and the maps at TBRC in Thailand.

“I am grateful that he was able to bring comfort to grieving families by showing where to find their loved ones’ graves,” says Rachel (wife), 95. Charles was awarded the MBE for his tireless work in the service of his fellow men.


Rajindar Singh Dhatt’s story

Rajinder Singh Dhatt

Rajinder Singh Dhatt

Rajindar Singh Dhatt was living in pre-partition India and had almost finished school when the Second World War broke out. Rajinder had hoped to go to college, but his father told him he couldn’t afford to send him so he joined the British-Indian Army.

As soon as Rajinder finished high school, he, his cousin, and his friend all joined the Army at 16, 17, 18. After joining as a sepoy (private) in February 1941 Rajindar was appointed to the Royal Indian Army Service Corps. This is where he was selected to become an army physical training instructor (PTI), a position where only the fittest were chosen . He excelled as a PTI and was promoted to Havildar Major (Sergeant Major) in 1943 before he was drafted to the Far East campaign to fight in Kohima in north east India. Rajindar and his unit were sent to support the Allied Forces and help break through the Japanese defences in north east India.

“There was one British Lieutenant, he came to us and he said, ‘you are in a theatre of war’.”

“We were laughing, a theatre … we were thinking that it was a film or something. It was then after that that he said, ‘we will defeat them.’ He gave us a lecture like that.

“I stood up and said that we Sikhs we’re not afraid of fighting. It doesn’t matter, we came here to fight and we will do that.

After the liberation of Kohima and Imphal, Rajindar spent the rest of the war fighting in Burma.

“We were very happy on 15 August when the Japanese surrendered. And we said thank God, we have won the war.”

After VJ Day, and the war had finally finished, Rajindar returned home to pre-partition India and worked as a physical training instructor at a school and on his family’s land.

“They announced in 1962 that people who fought in the Second World War can apply for a voucher to go to Britain. I applied for that voucher and they gave it to me.”

Rajindar came to Britain in 1963 and settled with his family in Hounslow. He was one of the founder members of the Undivided Indian Ex-Servicemens Association, which brings together Second World War service personnel from pre-partition India living in the UK.

CREDIT: The Royal British Legion

To view more stories and information on VJ Day, you can view Leicestershire Council’s VJ Day commemoration.


“I stood up and said that we Sikhs we’re not afraid of fighting. It doesn’t matter, we came here to fight and we will do that." Rajindar Singh Dhatt