VJ DAY – 70th Anniversary Commemorations

Saturday 15th August 2015

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the surrender of the Japanese and end of WW2 . I’m taking time today to remember and honour all those who lost their lives in the War – the Allied soldiers who fought valiantly for our Country and Freedom, and the innocent civilians who died in the horrific Atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

The far-eastern conflict of WW2 has a particular poignancy for myself – as if it wasn’t for the courage and bravery of one Private Bernard S. Hanson of the Royal Scots regiment, then I wouldn’t be sat here typing this post.

Private Hanson was my grandfather. Drafted into the Army at age 18, he was initially stationed in Hong Kong. When the Japanese invaded Hong Kong at the end of 1941, my Grandfather was taken as a Prisoner of War. Initially forced to work on the notorious Shanghai railroad, 9 months later he was to be involved in one of the worst Maritime tragedies of WW2. This is an excerpt taken from the book The Sinking of The Lisbon Maru: Britains Forgotten Wartime Tragedy by Tony Banham

On October 1st 1942, the American submarine Grouper fired six torpedoes at a Japanese troop transport, the Lisbon Maru, off Shanghai. Five of the unreliable Mk 14 fish either passed under the target or failed to detonate, but one exploded against the stern, bringing the ship to a standstill.Grouper immediately came under attack from patrol boats and aircraft, and departed the scene, taking one last look at 700 Japanese soldiers being taken off the stricken vessel.

What they didn’t see, however, was that the soldiers had battened down the hatches over the holds as they left. In those holds, trapped and waiting to drown in appalling conditions of filth, disease, and malnutrition were over 1,800 British Prisoners of War who had been captured at the fall of Hong Kong nine months earlier.

None need have died, but only 748 returned to Britain alive.

Bernard, somehow managed to break his shackles, and escape the sinking wreck. Covered in oil, clinging to the Ship’s debris he kept afloat whilst the American U-boat returned, and soldiers fired point-blank at the survivors. After quite some time, the Japanese boats came back to the wreck site and Bernard was re-captured and taken to Japan, where he spent the rest the war in squalid conditions in a POW camp.

After the surrender of the Japanese 70 years ago, Bernard returned to England and married his sweetheart Annie. They settled in Bradford, and had seven children, and now many grand children and great grand children. I can’t even start to imagine the atrocities he experienced at such a young age, but he rarely spoke about the war.

I was lucky to have known Bernard for 16 years of my life and I am forever inspired by my Grandfathers Courage and Bravery. I’m remembering all those that lost their lives in  WW2 today, but I’m also remembering the Heroism and Fearlessness of Private Bernard S.Hanson.  

Dave Hanson

Further reading –

The Sinking of The Lisbon Maru

VJ Day – Surviving the horrors of Japan’s WW2 camps