It has been 65 years since the end of the Second World War, and this year’s commemorations in Ottawa for VJ-Day (Victory over Japan Day) will include special focus on Canadian veterans of the Burma Campaign.
The Royal Canadian Air Force was a major participant in the campaign. It provided two transport squadrons—435 and 436—that supplied the British 14th Army as it pushed Japanese forces out of India and Burma (now Myanmar) in 1944 and 1945. It must also be noted that a number of Canadians served with the 14th Army, including Major Charles Ferguson Hoey of Duncan, B.C., who earned the Victoria Cross posthumously for action in Burma in 1944.
The RCAF’s 413 Squadron also served with distinction in the Far East, in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). As well, RCAF personnel serving with Royal Air Force units were busy at locations throughout the theatre, including Malaya (now Malaysia), Singapore, Java (now Indonesia) and India, some with Royal Air Force units.
Canada’s significant Far East contribution of wartime service and sacrifice includes those who served in a bloody battle in Hong Kong. The Royal Rifles of Canada and the Winnipeg Grenadiers who formed the bulk of the 1,975 Canadians sent in October 1941 to help defend what was then a British colony. Among the Winnipeg Grenadiers was Sergeant Major John Robert Osborn who earned the VC posthumously in December 1941.
Force 136 of the British Special Operations executive or intelligence units, meanwhile, included roughly 40 Canadian volunteers of Chinese and Japanese descent.
Canada’s navy also saw service in the Far East. The Canadian cruiser Uganda and the auxiliary cruiser Prince Robert were in the theatre as were a number of Canadian sailors who served in Royal Navy ships. Royal Canadian Navy air crew flew off British ships with the Fleet Air Arm, including Flight Lieutenant Hampton Gray who earned the VC posthumously for sinking a Japanese destroyer in August 1945. Other Canadians served in the Pacific with the merchant navy.
As part of 65th anniversary commemorations in Ottawa, veterans of 435 and 436 transport squadrons will hold their annual general meeting, Aug. 13-15. Plans for that same weekend include a tour of Vintage Wings in Gatineau, Que., to view a Dakota aircraft, and a tour of the Canadian War Museum. The twin-engine Dakota was the aircraft type flown by the squadrons during the Burma Campaign.
The minister of Veterans Affairs will host a dinner for the veterans at the Chateau Laurier Hotel on Saturday, and a commemorative ceremony will take place at the National War Memorial on Sunday, Aug. 15 starting at 10 a.m. If the weather cooperates, it will include a flypast of vintage aircraft.
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