Today, the 15th of August, is not only a religious holiday in many countries, including the secular French Republic; it is also VJ day when Japan surrendered to the Allies.
This brought to an end the Second World War, in which Australia was one of the six countries which fought on from the invasion of Poland to the very end.
Five of these powers, the United Kingdom, including the Indian Empire and the colonies, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, all lived under the reign of their beloved sovereign, King George VI.
In this terrible war, armed forces of over 100 million were mobilized across the world, and more than 70 million people died, mainly civilians.
During the war, 27,073 members of the Australian military services died, including 17,501 in the war in the Pacific. Nearly half of these died while in – and because of -Japanese captivity.
Australia was led in those days by men and women while divided along political lines were united in the determination to win the war, their allegiance to the Crown and their respect for the Flag.
…the turning point….
It is appropriate today to recall that the Battle of Milne Bay in 1942 was the turning point in the war.
As the British Field Marshal Sir William Slim, who was later to become a popular ands revered Governor-General of Australia observed:
"Australian troops had, at Milne Bay, inflicted on the Japanese their first undoubted defeat on land. Some of us may forget that, of all the allies, it was the Australians who first broke the invincibility of the Japanese army."
…the formal ceremony of surrender…
The formal Japanese surrender took place on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay on 2 September, 1945.
Japan was represented by the Foreign Minister, Mamoru Shigemitsu, who signed the Instrument of Surrender on behalf of The Emperor, and General Yoshijiro Umezu, Chief of the Army General Staff, who signed by the command and on behalf of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters
General Douglas MacArthur then signed as Supreme Commander, followed by the representatives of the Allied Powers in the following order: the US, the Republic of China, the United Kingdom( Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser), the USSR, Australia ( General Sir Thomas Blamey), Canada (Colonel Lawrence Moore Cosgrave), France ( Général d'Armée Philippe Leclerc de Hautecloque), The Neterlands (Luitenant-Admiraal C.E.L. Helfrich) and New Zealand (Air Vice-Marshal Leonard M. Isitt).
…the text of the Instrument of Surrender…
“We, acting by command of and on behalf of the Emperor of Japan, the Japanese Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters, hereby accept the provisions in the declaration issued by the heads of the Governments of the United States, China, and Great Britain 26 July 1945 at Potsdam, and subsequently to by the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which four powers are hereafter referred to as the Allied Powers.
"We hereby proclaim the unconditional surrender to the Allied Powers of the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters and of all Japanese Armed Forces and all Armed Forces under Japanese control wherever situated.
"We hereby command all Japanese forces wherever situated and the Japanese people to cease hostilities forthwith, to preserve and save from damage all ships, aircraft, and military and civil property, and to comply with all requirements which may be imposed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by agencies of the Japanese Government at his direction.
"We hereby command the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters to issue at once orders to the commanders of all Japanese forces and all forces under Japanese control wherever situated to surrender unconditionally themselves and all forces under their control.
"We hereby command all civil, military, and naval officials to obey and enforce all proclamations, orders, and directives deemed by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers to be proper to effectuate this surrender and issued by him or under his authority; and we direct all such officials to remain at their posts and to continue to perform their non-combatant duties unless specifically relieved by him or under his authority.
"We hereby undertake for the Emperor, the Japanese Government, and their successors to carry out the provisions of the Potsdam Declaration in good faith, and to issue whatever orders and take whatever action may be required by the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers or by any other designated representative of the Allied Powers for the purpose of giving effect to that declaration.
"We hereby command the Japanese Imperial Government and the Japanese Imperial General Headquarters at once to liberate all Allied Prisoners of War and civilian internees now under Japanese control and to provide for their protection, care, maintenance, and immediate transportation to places as directed.
"The authority of the Emperor and the Japanese Government to rule the State shall be subject to the Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers, who will take such steps as he deems proper to effectuate these terms of surrender".