A SOLIHULL veteran has spoken of his time in the Burma campaign during the Second World War.
Harry Southern was serving in the Navy when the Japanese surrendered in 1945.
On the 77th Victory over Japan (VJ) Day (Monday, August 15) Harry has spoken about how he was preparing for a ‘suicide trip’, when atomic bombs dropped by American forces on Hiroshima and Nagasaki forced the Japanese surrender.
The 97-year-old, who lives at Royal Star and Garter in Solihull which care for veterans and their spouses with dementia and disability, was a Leading Seaman, serving on a small 18-man motor launch.
He said: “We were there to harass the Japanese and support the Army as necessary. They needed people moving and we moved them around.”
On VJ Day in 1945, Harry was in Trincomalee in Ceylon (modern-day Sri Lanka), where his motor launch was having a refit.
“The reason for the refit was to have sound amplifying equipment installed which would make the noise of an armada out at sea,” he said. “The idea was we would cause a diversion to the Japanese, who would think there was an invasion coming down the west coast of Burma.
“And the diversion would obviously embarrass them because it was maybe three vessels playing gramophone records, just three 18-man crews involved. We were putting ourselves in a great deal of danger.
“You could regard it in some ways as a suicide trip. If they investigated, we were in trouble. But the bombs dropped and the refit was stopped.”
Harry said any relief he felt at the Japanese surrender was later tempered by the devastation caused to Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
He said: “I was out there nearly another nine months before I was drafted home. And we didn’t know the extent of the death and destruction it caused. That filtered through later.”
He later received a Burma Star medal.