The official end of the Second World War on 15 August 1945 was recognised as VJ Day (Victory over Japan) by the allied nations, which for so many brought mixed emotions.
Voices of War explores first hand testimonies, taken from IWM’s rich sound archive, of those reflecting on what the end of the war really meant then, encouraging to reconsider our understanding of what it meant to those who had lived through it and what it might mean to us today.
‘I think that everybody felt “had it all been worth it?” I think they felt elated that the war was over …… but I don’t think they had any strong feelings of victory.' - Elaine Penn Cheverton, British Women’s Auxiliary Service in Burma.
Click on the audio player below to listen to our soundscape of diverse experiences reflecting on the intense combination of celebration, trepidation and devastation felt by many from Chinese and Japanese civilians to service men and women from all over the word including the Seychelles and Mauritius.
Reflect on what the end of the Second World War meant to those who lived through it
“VJ Day came, it was all over. Everybody was, we were on our way home.”
“It was rumoured, you know. I don’t know, some people must have heard the Japanese surrendered and you know what. VE Day or V what day, we didn’t know. I suppose we were not sure until we saw the British soldiers coming, you know. So, so excited.”
“I was walking along the barbed wire outside the city (inaudible) when it was signing up and giving my thumbs up all the time gleefully. So, I suspected that something must have been happening outside. And next day after this, again I was standing watching the skies when the American fighter turned up that was a delightful sight, absolutely. Officers were sitting there receiving it with mute jubilation, while men away from us in their barracks were cheering wildly.”
“I didn’t like the (inaudible) during the war and I couldn’t bear it but then normal air raids and we couldn’t sleep at night without going to the underground shelter. So, that was some relief, so it’s a mixed feeling.”
“I was there at VJ Day. It was, you know when Churchill, thank God that day he didn’t have his cigar in his hand, you know, wouldn’t stop waving. People were crying, and I was crying, all people were shouting, you know (inaudible) from the Seychelles.”
“It was August the 15th that I remember being in Felixstowe and hearing all of these noises, I guess they were firecrackers or something going off and wanting to know what was going on and they said, “The war is over, the war is over.”
“We embarked for Burma, and we never got there because VJ Day was declared, and we were returned to base. A big relief all round.”
“I think that everybody felt had it all been worth it? I think they felt elated that the war was over, and they could start thinking about normal life again, but I don’t think they had any strong feelings of victory. It all seemed so unworthwhile really.”
“We arrived now after the war because of the many, many wounded so we owe them, we owe the dead.”
“Soon everything was restored but the most important thing was the birth of a new spirit of independence among the young people. That it was time that independence should be taken seriously.”
“And then when I got home, which was New Year’s Eve 1945, there was a banner outside, you know, welcome home, and it took me quite a while to knock the door (laughing). I suppose, just the feeling of getting home really, you know, and you haven’t seen your family for nearly four years and it was a very joyous occasion really.”
Who am I listening to?
Discover more about the voices in the soundscape by exploring their profiles.
Born in the Seychelles in 1923, he joined the Seychelles Defence Force in 1940. Following training he served with the Pioneer Corp in North Africa during 1941-1943, attached to the 14th Indian Division. He was a dispatch rider during the siege of Tobruk in 1941 before moving to Italy in 1943, landing at Salerno and fighting in the Battle of Cassino. At the end of the war he was responsible for guarding German prisoners in Egypt but attended, along with a larger contingent of soldiers from the Seychelles, the VJ Day victory parade in London.
Born in the United States of America in 1924, he served with the 889th Signal Company attached to 8th and 9th Air Forces, United States Army Air Force. Arriving in the United Kingdom in 1943, he was posted to Wattersham, near Ipswich in Suffolk, and worked on radio and radar systems. Among his duties was the novelty of providing technical assistance for performances by Bing Crosby and Glenn Miller while in this country. He visited Felixstowe on VJ Day and shortly afterwards returned home to the United States and civilian life.
Born in Mauritius in 1922, he enlisted into the Mauritius Coastal Artillery in 1941 before transferring to the King’s African Rifles the following year in Kenya. Joining the 6th Battalion in the role of staff sergeant he saw service in the Sudan in 1943 where he undertook jungle training for Burma. VJ Day meant the cancellation of his embarkation for Burma. He subsequently served with the Mauritius Pioneer Corp in Egypt and Palestine, 1946-1948, and then in the Canal Zone of Egypt, 1948-1954, and Aden, 1964-1967.
Born in Exeter in 1920, he volunteered at the outbreak of war for the Territorial Army and served with the 4th Battalion The Queen's (Royal West Surrey Regiment) in Britain before embarking from Liverpool for Bombay, India, in August 1940. He served in India, Afghanistan and Burma throughout the war and at the time of VJ Day was based at Toc H in Rangoon, Burma.
As a schoolchild she worked in an aircraft factory based in Hiroshima, Japan, during 1941-1945. She was living in the city when the atomic bomb was dropped on 6 August and subsequently recalled hearing Emperor Hirohito's surrender broadcast.
Muhammad Ismail Khan
Pakistani Indian officer who served with the 2/10th Battalion Baluch Regiment as a liaison officer to Headquarters, 8th Indian Infantry Brigade (9th Indian Infantry Division) while in Malaya during 1941-1942. Captured by the Japanese when they took Singapore in February 1942, he spent the rest of the conflict as a prisoner of war and was held captive in Seletar camp on the island when the Japanese surrender was announced. He subsequently served with the Gilgat Scouts during the Kashmir War of 1948-1949.
Born in Borneo in 1912, she spent her early life undertaking teaching and social work in Singapore before working as a nurse with the Medical Auxiliary Service during 1941-1942. Working at St Andrew's Hospital in Singapore she recalled treating casualties from the Japanese bombing and was present on the island when the Japanese invaded in February 1942. Both she and her husband were arrested and tortured by the Kempeitai, only released towards the end of the occupation when she recalled the joy or hearing of the Japanese surrender.
Elaine Penn Cheverton
With her father serving with the Indian Army on the North West Frontier, she attended boarding school in the United Kingdom but spent much of her early life in India during the 1920s and 1930s. From 1942 she served with the Women's Auxiliary Service Burma, in both India and Burma, and when in Rangoon worked with former prisoners of war of the Japanese returning from camps. Following the Japanese surrender, she was transferred to Japan in 1946 and witnessed the devastation caused to Hiroshima.
Recruited to join the Imperial Japanese Army, he served as an officer with the 31st Mountain Artillery Regiment in both India and Burma, 1944-1945. Many years after the war, he was a member of the Burma Campaign Society and worked hard to promote reconciliation between former enemies.
Wan Guay Gay
Born in 1915 to Chinese parents in Singapore, Malaya, he served as a member of the Air Raid Precautions organisation in Singapore during the early years of the war. Following the Japanese invasion in 1942 he lived as a civilian under the new regime and in 1943 joined the New Settlement Scheme at Endau, Malaya.
He served as a NCO with the 1/8th Battalion Lancashire Fusiliers (2nd Infantry Division) in India and Burma, 1942-1945. He was involved in the Battle of Kohima in April 1944 during which he was bayoneted in the arm by a Japanese soldier, leading to his medical treatment and period of six months in hospital and transfer to the Royal Indian Army Service Corps HQ, New Delhi. After the war, he sailed to Southampton and arrived home in Walsall on New Year’s Eve 1945.