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The impact, the aftermath and the future

The impact and legacy of the war in the Far East and the Second World War would be felt for years after.

With the end of the war in Asia and the Pacific, over a million servicemen and women from Britain and across the Commonwealth had to be demobilised and transported home.

Soldiers from Wales to The Gambia and from Karachi to Cairns would need to be shipped from one side of the world to another, with some service personnel and POWs only finally returning home in 1946.

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Lieutenant-General Sir William Slim, 14th Army Commander, talking to an African gunner

Returning home

Many of those returning home would be coming back to families and nations that they had not seen in years, and to changes and turmoil, they could only imagine. In Britain with the election of a Labour Government in July 1945 the economic, industrial and social structure of Britain would undergo massive change, as would the position of Britain internationally as the USA and USSR took the positions of the world's most powerful states.

Troops returning to the UK

Returning home

Many of those returning home would be coming back to families and nations that they had not seen in years, and to changes and turmoil, they could only imagine. In Britain with the election of a Labour Government in July 1945 the economic, industrial and social structure of Britain would undergo massive change, as would the position of Britain internationally as the USA and USSR took the positions of the world's most powerful states.

Troops returning to the UK

In Australia and New Zealand, Labour governments would be elected or re-elected towards the end of the war and undertake large economic and social change.

The same was true in Canada where The Liberal Party of Canada was re-elected. Whether in Britain, Australia, New Zealand or Canada the servicemen and women’s vote would play a large role in electing all these governments, and ensuring the world they left behind when going to war, would not be the same one they returned home to.

Service personnel in London Piccadilly Circus on VJ Day 1945
Allied POWs including British & American from Hanawa Camp, Honshu cheer their liberation, 14th September 1945
A sharp shooter of the Indian Army, fighting in alliance with the British, poses with his rifle, at an unknown location in Burma, in March 1944

Returning to pre-partition India

For troops from pre-partition India, they would return to a country and society heading towards independence. As independence loomed Britain’s inability to come up with a plan that would garner support across all pre-partition India’s many ethnic and religious groupings, would lead to societal unrest and the splintering of families and communities.

This would mirror what would happen to the pre-partition Indian army where the experience of fighting side-by-side would keep the armed forces unified until partition resulted in colleagues dividing and joining either the Pakistani or Indian armies respectively.

Returning to pre-partition India

For forces returning to Africa their service would be marred by a lack of recognition from Britain. Pay for black soldiers had been less than their white counterparts, for example white private could earn 10 shillings for each month of service compared to just 3.5 shillings for a black soldier of the same rank.

In addition Black Africans were paid an end of war bonus three times less than their white counterparts.

Many veterans returned to nations whose ties to Britain were loosening and who would gain independence not long after the war had ended, such as Ghana in 1957.

Lieutenant-General Sir William Slim, 14th Army Commander, talking to an African gunner

Building new lives

As Britain rebuilt after the war it needed workers and asked Commonwealth citizens to come to Britain, many veterans of the wars in both Europe and the Far East would come, from the Caribbean, South Asia and Africa.

Building new lives in Africa

Building new lives

As Britain rebuilt after the war it needed workers and asked Commonwealth citizens to come to Britain, many veterans of the wars in both Europe and the Far East would come, from the Caribbean, South Asia and Africa.

Building new lives in Africa

Today the descendants of these veterans who fought with Britain and answered the call to help rebuild Britain, are part of some of Britain’s largest and most vibrant communities across the country.

From the Sikh community in Southall, to the Muslim community in Blackburn, to the Caribbean community in Bristol, to the Hindu community in Leicester, to the Nigerian community in Manchester or to the Bengali community in Tower Hamlets, the legacy of the war in Asia and the Pacific and of VJ Day lives on in Britain today.

 

Britain today and the fight for recognition

How communities understand and celebrate the fight for recognition of Commonwealth soldiers.

The fight for recognition
An Indian infantry section of the 2nd Battalion, 7th Rajput Regiment about to go on patrol on the Arakan front, Burma

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