Former Banbury mayor’s key role in ‘emotional’ VJ Day service

John Giddings, Burma Star Association
John Giddings, Burma Star Association

A former Banbury Town Mayor played a major part in the event to mark the 70th anniversary of the end of the war with Japan on August 15, 1945.

John Giddings is chairman of the Burma Star Association and officiated alongside Prince Charles, Prime Minister David Cameron and the chairman of the Royal British Legion to lay commemorative wreaths at a ceremony in Horse Guards in London on Saturday.

John Giddings, Burma Star Association, Banbury

John Giddings, Burma Star Association, Banbury

Mr Giddings, now 92, fought in Burma, India and Singapore during four years of confrontation with the Japanese.

At a special service attended by HM The Queen at St Martin in the Fields Church, Mr Giddings recited the Kohima epitaph – ‘When you go home, tell them of us and say, for their tomorrow, we gave our today’.

Mr Giddings was one among 1,000 veterans and their families at the commemorations in London on Saturday.

“I wore ‘civvies’ with my medals and my large official brass badge bearing the Burma Star. I had on my green beret and my green sash.

“The wreath-laying was very emotional and the service was very moving indeed,” he said.

The actor Charles Dance recited Kipling’s poem Mandalay and there was a fly-past of Second World War aircraft including a Typhoon and a Dakota which roared overhead to huge applause from the spectators.

Mr Giddings lied about his age to sign up to the Royal Air Force at 17. Trained in the signals section, he was sent over seas.

His ship in the convoy suffered an engine failure in the Indian Ocean and was delayed.

His fellow servicemen reached Singapore and with the subsequent Japanese invasion were prisoners of war within a month. Mr Giddings’ ship made its way to Burma.

Volunteering for ‘hazardous duty’ Mr Giddings played his part in the infamous repulsion of the Japanese at Kohima, dropping food and essential supplies to the allied forces.

“For four years I had no leave and after the dropping of the atom bombs and the surrender of Japan, I hitchhiked back to the UK on a Dakota bringing home prisoners of war,” he said.

“At that point I weighed only eight stone.”

Mr Giddings was given two weeks leave but got home only to be sent back to the far east to help the Dutch fight a losing battle against Indonesian independence.

He described it as ‘almost as bad as Burma’.

He finally left the RAF in 1947 and forged a career in engineering and insurance.

He served as a civilian volunteer in the Royal Observer Corps as part of Britain’s Cold War defences.

He was a member of the Burma Star Association, becoming chairman, was made an MBE in 2003 for his association work and still lives in Banbury.