Burma Star veteran Fred Conway, 96, lays a wreath at the memorial in Skegness on VJ Day.Burma Star veteran Fred Conway, 96, lays a wreath at the memorial in Skegness on VJ Day.
Burma Star veteran Fred Conway, 96, lays a wreath at the memorial in Skegness on VJ Day.

PICTURES: Salute to Burma Star veteran, 96, on VJ Day in Skegness

A 96-year-old Burma Star veteran has laid a wreath at the memorial in Skegness to celebrate the 76th anniversary of VJ Day.

Fred Conway represented the Burma Star Association at a ceremony at St Matthew's Church, proudly taking along his war medals - the 1939-45 Star, Burma Star, Italian Star, French Medal and Victory Medal.

Mr Conway is one of the last surviving Burma Star veterans and now lives in Anderby Creek with his family.

He told the Standard he was incredibly honoured to be laying a wreath and representing the Burma Star in Skegness.

"I always used to lay the wreaths for the Burma Star where I used to live in East Staffordshire but now I have moved to live with my family in Anderby Creek," he said.

"I was honoured to be asked to do it in Skegness.

"I served on HMS Wager when the Duke of Edinburgh served on its sister ship, HMS Whelp.

"Before it was decommissioned we had sailed 118,000 miles, mainly escorting carriers and fleet carriers.

"We were fortunate that we only lost two crew, but on one stay we were 92 days at sea."

Victory over Japan Day - or VJ Day - was first celebrated on 15 August 1945 to mark the end of World War Two.

It was the moment that the Allies - that is Britain, the US and other countries that were fighting together - marked victory over Japan.

US President Harry S Truman broke the news at a press conference at the White House at 7pm on 14 August. Later at midnight, Britain's new prime minister Clement Atlee confirmed it, saying: "The last of our enemies is laid low."

The following day, Japan's Emperor Hirohito was heard on the radio for the first time ever when he announced the surrender.

For the crew on board HMS Wager, who were in Tokyo Bay when the announcement was made, celebrations were low key, said Mr Conway.

"We always had to be on guard in case of sniper fire - but we did get an extra tot of rum every day."

Members of the Skegness branch of the Royal British Legion attended the memorial at St Matthew's Church on Sunday, along with the Burma Star and Skegness Town Council chaplain, the Rev Ian Banks, and the Mayor and Mayoress of Skegness, Coun Trevor Burnham and Jane Burnham, who were representing the council and residents.

Prayers were led by the Rev Richard Holden, who also held a service in St Matthew's.

Standard bearer was Les Constantine and Pete Dixon represented the Royal British Legion.

The Last Post and Reveille was played by Jackie Parkins.

Paul Dixon, chairman of the Skegness branch of the RBL, said he was delighted to have finally been able to celebrate VJ Day in Skegness.

"We had a lot planned for the 75th anniversary before the pandemic but it has been fantastic for our members and for the public to finally be able to mark the occasion with the laying of wreaths at the memorial," said Mr Dixon.

"Although it has not been as big an event as we would have originally liked it was good to see people here and especially to welcome Fred Conway to represent the Burma Star, who at 96 did an amazing job.

"We are also grateful to the Mayor of Skegness Coun Trevor Burnham for representing the town and to the Skegness Standard for their support.

"The Royal British Legion in Skegness has reformed and is growing and we welcome new members.

"No-one should forget those who have given their lives in conflict and continue to serve their country."

After the ceremony a buffet was provided at the New Park Club, which is the headquarters of the Skegness Branch. There was also a 1940's singer to entertain guests.

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