Red Arrows News

Team members meet veterans during VJ Day events

Red Arrows pilots and ground crew met Second World War veterans during events marking the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

Victory over Japan Day (VJ Day) commemorates when the war against the Empire of Japan, and the war as a whole, came to a close and is an opportunity to reflect on those who sacrificed so much to secure freedom.

To mark the anniversary, the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team had planned to carry out a series of flypasts across the United Kingdom.

However, due to poor weather and very low cloud conditions, a flypast of Belfast was the only element that could go ahead.

But a refuelling stop at Glasgow Prestwick Airport afforded the opportunity for the Red Arrows to meet three Scottish veterans – Whitson Johnson, Albert Lamond and Barney Roberts.

The Scottish veterans at Prestwick. Image by SAC Abigail Drewett.

They greeted the pilots and exchanged their stories of serving in the Armed Forces three quarters of a century apart.

Whitson served in the RAF from 1942 to 1947, deciphering codes in support of the Fourteenth Army and spent time in Bombay, Calcutta, Chittagong, Hmawbi and Burma.

The 96-year-old said: “As far as I was concerned, August 15 was when the war ended. That was a great day. I will never forget it. War is a terrible thing. I learned that lesson and I realise there is no point in war.

“I am glad that the war finished when it did and the Allies were victorious. I can hardly believe that it has been 75 years since that day.”

The veterans watch the Red Arrows land at Prestwick.
The veterans watch the Red Arrows land at Prestwick. Image by SAC Abigail Drewett.

Albert, 94, served in the Royal Navy from 1943 to 1947 as a Signalman and was at Sword Beach during the D-Day campaign. He was later attached to the Pacific Fleet that joined with the US Navy under the command of Admiral Halsey.

Bernard “Barney” Roberts, 93, was also in the Royal Navy – serving from 1942 to 1947, initially on a minelayer to protect the Arctic Convoys from German U-boats before fighting in Italy and later in North Africa.

He said: “On VJ Day I felt great relief and happiness that it was finally over. My message to everyone today, and in particular the younger generation, is that we are very lucky, very lucky indeed not to be involved in a war like the Second World War.

“So many of us owe the freedoms we have today to the Second World War generation.”

Scottish-born Squadron Leader Martin Pert, Team Leader and Red 1 of the Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “It is an enormous privilege, as members of the modern day Royal Air Force, to meet these incredible veterans as they continue to provide inspiration to us all, particularly when we reflect on their sacrifice and service.

Reds 1 and 7 meet the veterans during the Scottish stop.

“Although separated by different generations and circumstances, there is still so much we have in common with these individuals – indeed, the UK’s Armed Forces in 2020 seek to embody these same values of our forebears.

“The Red Arrows were honoured to play a role in marking the 75th anniversary of VJ Day and, in doing so, both remember those who gave so much to secure victory in the Second World War as well as celebrating this important milestone together as a country.”

Although the Red Arrows’ jets were unable to land in Cardiff as planned due to the conditions, veteran Ray Taylor did still meet the team’s ground crew, who had pre-positioned to the airport in advance. 

Three members of the team’s engineers and support staff, known as the Blues, spent more than an hour with Ray, sharing experiences of life in the Armed Forces. 

The Red Arrows over Belfast.
The Red Arrows over Belfast. Image by Cpl Adam Fletcher.

Ray Taylor served in the RAF from 1942 to 1946 as a Gunner and Parachutist.

He completed 48 missions including 12 with Bomber Command over Europe. He also volunteered with 148 Squadron to perform special duties, such as resupply drops during the Warsaw uprising.

Ray said: “After being based in Brindisi in Italy attached to 148 Squadron, I volunteered to go and fight in Japan but then the bombs were dropped and the war was over.

“I did experience moments of joy with my crew when we were able to have a laugh and a joke, but I will always remember the terror of war and the things I saw.”

Ray Taylor with the Blues in Cardiff.

Wing Commander David Montenegro, Officer Commanding, Royal Air Force Aerobatic Team, said: “It is a huge honour and very humbling for members of the Red Arrows’ support team to meet Ray on such a poignant day when we mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

“Ray, as with other veterans and members of the Greatest Generation, provides inspiration to us still now – particularly in the values of courage, strength and determination.

“These qualities remain key to the UK’s Armed Forces to-this-day and, whatever our circumstances, we should continue to learn from those who have gone before us.”

For more information on the Red Arrows, follow @rafredarrows on Twitter, like the team’s Facebook page at RAF Red Arrows, view pictures on Instagram @rafredarrows or visit www.raf.mod.uk/reds

 

 

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