VJ Day 70 London – The Chairman’s view
On August 15th 2015 the day started very early for some of us, but not as early as NFFWRA Secretary and FEPOW Chaplain Pauline Simpson’s, who was being interviewed by the BBC before breakfast in Trafalgar Square. Pauline would say ‘what breakfast?’, then got on with the business at hand and her day got busier and busier up to and including the wonderful Church Service at St Martin-in-the-Field. What a beautiful Church to hold this very important Service of Remembrance, with the bells of St Martin’s, being joined by those at St Paul’s and Westminster Abbey ringing out a warm welcome and alerting London to the forthcoming events of the day.
This alone took over three years to bring to fruition and out of the blue for Pauline to get a call from Buckingham Palace asking whether she would accept the proposal of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh who wished to attend was the biggest surprise, but what an honour for both Pauline and the Veterans.
On the big day I must thank the Committee and Associated members for their time helping the Stewards of St Martin-in-the-Field with Security, and seating the congregation within the Church at times under pressure, but with professional decorum as St Martin’s became full to bursting. Everybody was seated on time, with the FEPOWs, wives, widows and Civilian Internees close to the Royalty in attendance.
Amongst the congregation, special guests were in attendance by invitation of NFFWRA, these included representatives of the 1942 Infantry Division, Ambassadors from the Commonwealth, the Military and the Royal Commonwealth ex servicemen’s league. We were delighted that Viscount Slim and the Countess were able to join us and that Viscount Slim read a lesson at the Service and of course the Prime Minister was also in attendance.
Her Royal Highness the Queen, and the Duke of Edinburgh, accompanied by the Earl and Countess of Wessex arrived with our Patron the Duke of Gloucester and the Duchess of Gloucester, and were introduced first of all to Pauline followed by the Senior Clergy before entering the church.
Your views and comments on the service are included in the post below
At the end of the Service Pauline escorted the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh to the Portico of the Church to introduce Bob Hucklesby, our President, and other veterans and dignitaries to Her Majesty who was very interested in talking to everybody, and spent more time than was planned with them. The Royal household were getting worried about the time this was taking but The Queen was not to be rushed.
I met and introduced TRH the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester, the Prime Minister and Viscount Slim to Eric Adie and Jack Jennings (Pacific Star veterans) and also to Vic Nibbs (Burma Star veteran).
Leslie Clark the Chairman of the Java 1942 FEPOW Club introduced the Earl, and the Countess of Wessex (the Java Club Patron) to her group of veterans and dignitaries.
Outside, Trafalgar Square was packed with the general public cheering the Queen and the Royal family as they departed, not worrying about the veiled threat against them, in fact the Duke of Edinburgh said ‘well the roof of the Church didn’t get blown off did it!’ The cheering continued as the Veterans left the church to attend the service in Horse Guards Parade with the Bells continuing to ring out over London.
After the service at Horse guards, the Veterans marched (or was it strolled) down Whitehall. Some were even seen dancing! The crowds, in their thousands, cheered and clapped the veterans all the way to the Abbey gardens at Westminster where they gathered together for tea and goodies in the company of HRH Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall, who enjoyed their time so much they left much later than planned.
As many of you are aware accommodation had been arranged by Pauline for as many of us as possible to stay at the Union Jack Club close to Waterloo Station, so we were able to meet up with friends both old and new on the Friday and Saturday evening. Anna, Pauline’s daughter arranged for the free taxis to transport the veterans from the Union Jack Club to St Martins and again they waited at Westminster Abbey to transport people to their destinations. Some I believe were even taken home!
A special supper was laid on by NFFWRA at the Union Jack Club for 144 people on Saturday evening. A three-course meal with tea or coffee, all free for our FEPOWs wives and widows. We are extremely grateful to our Members and Associate members who for the past three years have been supporting our fundraising events to finance this event. We were sorry that the size of the banquet room did not accommodate more than the 144 who attended as we could have doubled the attendance. Pauline’s daughter Lauren, a professional singer, appropriately dressed in a military uniform and her grandfather’s medals sang many old 40’s songs with union jacks waving and hearty singing by all which made the evening very special. A boozy fruit cake made by a friend of Pauline’s eldest daughter Anna was cut by Pauline, and everybody had a slice on a Union Jack napkin, with more jolly singing and some dancing. A great end to a very emotional but happy day.
I am sure you would all like to join me in thanking Pauline for the magnificent Service, her family, committee and others for all their help and support to enable this special day to take place.
As you can imagine, Pauline’s postman has been extremely busy delivering cards and letters of appreciation, even from the Royal Household, and rightly so!
On behalf of everyone, a big ‘Thank you’ to Pauline. Tony Burrows