Some 50 World War II veterans were VIP guests at a Belfast City Hall lunch on Wednesday which marked the 70th anniversary of Japanese surrender in the conflict.
The date for the civic lunch – hosted by Deputy Mayor Guy Spence of the DUP – was the Japanese signing of the surrender document on the deck of USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay, formalising the end of the war.
Some 150 people attended the lunch, with 1940s musical entertainment provided for the veterans – now all in their 90s or older – by the Nostalgia Trio band.
Each of the veterans was given a Belfast City medallion specially engraved for the occasion.
The presentations were made by a range of hosts including Mr Spence, High Sheriff Councillor Gareth McKee, the Lord Lieutenant of the County Borough of Belfast, Wing Commander Tara Scott, Commander John Gray, Brigadier Andrew Roe and Mervyn Elder, president of the Royal British Legion.
Mr Spence paid tribute to the veterans as his “special guests”.
“For men and women of my generation, any understanding we may have of that war is gleaned from the accounts of others; perhaps the recollections of family members but most likely history lessons in school or the often tinted stories told on cinema and television screens,” he said.
“So to be able to pause, reflect and mark an occasion such as this in the company of those who ‘know’ first hand and who played their part at our country’s hour of need is indeed a privilege.”
He added: “We honour those who gave everything and those whose lives were changed forever by daring to ‘dream new dreams’, by cherishing the freedoms we have, and by moving forward to a time when the signatures come before another life is lost.
“On behalf of the people of Belfast, let me, as Deputy Lord Mayor humbly say thank you. My generation – indeed all generations since 1945 – owe you a debt of gratitude.”