Remembering the brave Ulstermen who fought in SE Asia

Morning View
Morning View

Seventy years ago the worst war in human history came to an end with complete triumph for the forces of liberal democracy.

Japanese surrender was, like Germany’s surrender months earlier, unconditional. Tokyo had tried to negotiate a conditional surrender that was rejected.

Tragically, hundreds of thousands of civilians died in the two atomic bombings that forced the militaristic Japanese regime to accept defeat.

But there is much to celebrate today:

While World War II began only 21 years after the disastrous Great War, there has been no war on a comparable scale to either of those two conflicts anywhere in the globe since.

Nuclear weapons have not been used since 1945. In Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the world got a horrifying glimpse of their devastating potential.

And, perhaps best of all, the two principal aggressors – Germany and Japan – reacted largely without bitterness to their loss and generally without disputing their culpability.

They are now two of the most stable, moderate and economically successful democracies in human history.

Many brave allied servicemen died in 1939 to 45, helping to bring about this current prosperous state of affairs, in which so many people in the world live in peace and affluence.

The courage of Northern Irish servicemen who fought in south-east Asia is less well known than those who battled the Nazis in Europe, partly because it happened further away.

But their number included the medical pioneer Frank Pantridge. He lived, but never forgot his experience. Others died against the Japanese for our safety.

As Mervyn Elder, of the Royal British Legion, points out, the Ulster servicemen were volunteers, not conscripts. They did not have to put their lives on the line, but did.

We remember them all, both those who died and those fortunate to survive, today in an age of technology and comfort that would barely have seemed possible in the early 1940s.