The 75th Anniversary of VJ Day – Victory over Japan – will be commemorated tomorrow, August 15.
Highland Reserve Forces and Cadets’ Association Member and Regimental Secretary of The Gordon Highlanders Association, Major (Retd) Grenville Irvine-Fortescue DL, says the day will be especially poignant for veterans of The Gordon Highlanders.
They will remember the extraordinary sacrifice by so many from the 2nd, 8th and 9th Battalions that fought in Malaya, Singapore, India and Burma. The 8th and 9th were both reserve units, while 2 Gordons was a regular unit.
Attention naturally falls to the capture of the 2nd Battalion in Singapore, the loss of those from the battalion who died in the fighting in both the withdrawal through Malaya and then subsequently those who suffered and died during the appalling conditions of captivity and, following liberation, from the trauma they had endured.
A vivid picture of events is covered in a number of books, not least, Stewart Mitchell’s Scattered Under the Rising Sun; Alastair Urquhart’s The Forgotten Highlander, and Robin Fletcher’s Woe to the Captive.
Maj Irvine-Fortescue also notes that we must remember those Gordon Highlanders from the 8th (City of Aberdeen) Battalion and the 9th Battalion Gordon Highlanders who fought in India and Burma as the 100th (Gordon Highlanders) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery and the 116th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders) Royal Armoured Corps, respectively.
He is also indebted to Gordon Highlanders Association Trustee and Secretary of the Aberdeen Branch, Major Bob Donald TD, for his research and contributions that remind us of what the battalions faced.
Major Donald wrote: “The 2nd Battalion The Gordon Highlanders was based in Malaya as part of the Singapore Garrison. Japanese forces invaded northern Malaya on 8 December 1941. They made rapid progress fighting south towards Singapore. The Japanese crossed the Straits separating Singapore from the mainland on 8 February 1942 and the subsequent battle saw fierce fighting in which the Gordons were heavily involved throughout. The end came for the 2nd Gordons with the British Army’s surrender at 8.30pm on 15 February 1942. The men of this battalion suffered more casualties as prisoners of war in Japanese captivity than they did fighting on Singapore Island and Malaya.
“In May 1939, with the situation in Europe deteriorating, the Government decided that the Territorial Army should not only be brought up to strength, it should be doubled in size.
“In Aberdeen, the 4th (Machine Gun) Battalion which was already over establishment aimed to form another machine-gun battalion, the 8th Gordon Highlanders. By the end of October 1941, the 8th Gordons, now fully trained and equipped as a machine-gun battalion, was reformed as the 100th (Gordon Highlanders) Anti-Tank Regiment, Royal Artillery. As such and now fully trained gunners, they embarked for India at the end of January 1943. Anti-tank guns being considered a luxury in the type of warfare for which they were being trained, the Regiment now received 3-inch mortars, the intention being to use the Gordons either as infantry with mortars or anti-tank guns. They subsequently served with the 2nd Infantry Division in the Burma Campaign, most notably at the Battle of Kohima.
“The 6th (Banffshire and Donside) Battalion, with Headquarters at Keith, formed a recruiting company which, accompanied by the drums and pipes, visited Portgordon, Cornhill, Aberchirder, Rothiemay, Rhynie, Inverurie, Fyvie and Newmill. It was not long before a new unit, the 9th Gordon Highlanders, was formed from the surplus of the 6th Battalion. The 9th Gordons arrived in India on 24 July 1942 and three days later it was announced they were to become 116th Regiment (Gordon Highlanders) Royal Armoured Corps. They continued to wear the Gordons cap badge on the black beret of the Royal Armoured Corps. They joined the 267th Indian Armoured Brigade and later, as part of the 255th Indian Tank Brigade, Fourteenth Army were involved in the dash for Rangoon and were heavily involved in the Battle of Meiktila that signalled the end of Japanese hopes in Burma. These Gordon Highlanders were the last armoured regiment to come out of action and the furthest British regiment from home at the end of the war.”
Gordon Highlander wreaths will be laid tomorrow at memorials around the North East. In Aberdeen, wreaths will be laid at the City Memorial at Cowdray Hall at 11.00am and then at The Gordon Highlanders Statue at the Castlegate at 11.30am. A ceremony will also be held at the War Memorial in Ellon and at the War Memorial in Huntly, both also at 11.00am.
For those who may plan to attend, please observe COVID-19 restrictions and where appropriate wear a face covering and maintain social distancing.
The Gordon Highlanders Museum website (www.gordonhighlanders.com) will be uploading photographs of commemorations taking place around the country. Please submit photos with names and locations so that both the Museum and the Association can record this very important anniversary.
“When You Go Home
Tell Them Of Us And Say
For Your Tomorrow
We Gave Our Today”
Kohima Memorial Epitaph