A Message from our Patron about VJ Day 70
Their Royal Highnesses The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester thank you most sincerely for your hospitality and organisation in arranging their attendance at the Service to Commemorate the Seventieth Anniversary of Victory in Japan day at St Martin-in-the-Fields on 15th August, 2015. Their Royal Highnesses were honoured to be part of such a special occasion and were extremely moved by the fitting tribute made during the Service. The Duke and Duchess would wish to pass on their thanks and appreciation to all those involved for such a special and memorable occasion. The Duke and Duchess of Gloucester would like to convey their very warmest regards to Pauline and everyone at the NFFWRA and they look forward to seeing you again in the not too distant future.
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!
An amazing £3200 was raised at the collection taken at our VJ Day Service. An amount of £1600.00 has now been sent to Combat Stress – The Veterans’ Mental Health Charity and £1600 to NFFWRA as advertised in our Order of Service. Thank you most sincerely for your generosity. On behalf of everyone, a big ‘Thank you’ to Pauline.
Comments from veterans and their families attending the VJ70 Day commemorations
Here are just some of the many comments received from veterans and their families attending the London commemorations:
“The Service at St Martin-in -the Fields – “The highlight of the day – a beautiful and fitting location with different perspectives of remembrance, the beautiful voices of the choir, the veterans great grandchildren lighting the candles, so symbolic of keeping the memories of the fallen but also, keeping alive the horrors of war and the need for prevention”.
“Beautiful, appropriate and well organised and we appreciated the presence of the Royal family and the Prime Minister” The beautiful hymns, the combination of the choir and the band was electric.
“Thank you for such a wonderful service, it just hit the right note.”
“I thought the whole day was wonderful…. the simplicity and intimacy was very touching and moving. It was brilliant that the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh were there. A real credit to you and all the veterans.”
“The continued feeling of camaraderie – the buzz of conversation among the veterans and their families – so many meaningful conversations about the fallen, war, life and spirit.”
“The glint in the veterans eyes, recognising that same spirit that sustained them through the horror of the camps and which has led to the ripe old age of so many.”
“The walk down Whitehall was exhilarating – the clapping and cheering – people came to cheer the veterans and pay their respects and gave the veterans the welcome they had waited 70 years to receive.”
“Veterans skipped and made contact with the crowd, kissed each other and hugged over the barriers. There was much laughter and smiles stretched from ear to ear.”
“It was incredible, something which we will never forget……..We no longer feel “The Forgotten Army”
“An incredible spectacle! The crowds were amazing, my father had the time of his life!
“A very tiring but unforgettable day…….. Many thanks for organising such a wonderful event”
“I was privileged to attend the events on VJ Day 70 in St Martins then Horse Guards, Reception then dinner at the UJC”
“As stated to Pauline Simpson, it was an amazing day, a lot of hard work and stress in her part but I’m sure she will be proud of it all”
“I will ever be grateful for the experience…………………..completely different from the 50th Anniversary at Buckingham Palace and Horse Guards the following day.”
“My friends and I thoroughly enjoyed it all, our stay at the UJC, Church service, fellowship, dinner etc etc….so much to remember…and so many lovely people.”
Quote from a daughter of a FEPOW:
“I want to write to thank you for all your help in acquiring tickets for the FEPOW / VJ Service last Saturday. It was such a special day in so many ways & Dad really enjoyed it all. I was quite nervous about the ‘expedition’ as it was not without the complications you would expect with a 96 year old, but it could not have gone more smoothly. We had marvellous seats during the service, and were very touched by Bishop Nigel’s sermon. Dad particularly loves music and hymns and was quite moved by the fanfares & drum rolls. A kind person in a high-vis jacket escorted us across Trafalgar Square, and then we had excellent seats for the Drumhead Service. I will never forget the seemingly never-ending applause as we wheeled him down Whitehall. He was a bit overcome at that moment – weren’t we all? He could not quite understand why people kept coming up to him and shaking his hand and saying thank you – or ‘you are a real soldier’. He has never really dwelled on what happened in the war, and just moved forward. Saturday was such an eye opener for him, to be amongst other people with similar experiences and stories.”
“The whole day was so well organised, and so well supported by all the Service personnel and the volunteers it took away all my worries. I felt so proud of Dad, and to be British and take part in a unique and very British occasion. Thank you for your help in making it come together.”
They really are a strong generation and an inspiration to us all.
NFFWRA Secretary awarded British Empire Medal (BEM)
The Members, Associate members, friends of NFFWRA and their FEPOW families wish to congratulate Mrs Pauline Simpson FEPOW Chaplain and Secretary/Grants Officer on being awarded a British Empire Medal (BEM) in the New Year 2016 Honours List as approved by HM The Queen
This well deserved recognition is for her commitment to all FEPOW Veterans, their wives and widows by taking care of both their Social Welfare, with Reunion weekends and in respect of the grant support she provides for them, helping them to have a more comfortable and better quality of life. From 2006 the very first FEPOW Reunion weekend organised by Pauline in Scarborough, to 2015 the 70th Anniversary VJ Day Remembrance service Pauline has tirelessly given of her time to them.
The EDP local paper printed – ‘Pauline Simpson has received a British Empire Medal, on the back of a year in which she organised the 70th anniversary VJ Day service of remembrance. It took months of planning for Mrs Simpson, of Neatishead, North Norfolk, to organise the event, which took place in London, and was attended by the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh. Her father was a Far East Prisoner of War (FEPOW) who endured three and a half years of brutal captivity, including a spell on the notorious Death Railway. Mrs Simpson has been recognised for her role as the secretary to the National FEPOW Fellowship Welfare Remembrance Association, and for her voluntary service to the Former Far East Prisoners of War community’.
Tony Burrows NFFWRA Chairman
‘Lest We Forget’