World War Two Royal Navy veteran John Cannon braved the rain to attend the last VJ Day parade of the Burma Star Association in his home town of Paignton.
John at 97, who had remarkably survived the sinking of two of the ships during the war, is now the only surviving veteran of the association in Torbay.
The shortened service due to Covid-19 restrictions is also the final parade of the Burma Star Association standard, which will be laid up in Paignton Parish Church.
Having joined the Royal Navy as a boy seaman, John was aged just 16 years old when he survived the sinking by torpedo of the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous, the first Royal Naval ship to be sunk in the war.
He went on to serve in HMS Dorsetshire and survived further enemy action and a second sinking, when HMS Dorsetshire was bombed by the Japanese in the Indian Ocean. Spending more than 30 hours in shark-infested waters, he was rescued and continued to serve much of his time in the Far East, before returning to Devonport.
“This will be the last VJ Day parade for the Burma Star Association here in Torbay,” said Julia Rolls, secretary of the district branch.
“I’ve seen many parades over the years but with dwindling members, we are laying up the standard and this will be the final time the VJ Day parade will take place. It’s an honour to have John Cannon here, our last surviving member.”
Julia took over as secretary from her husband Alan Rolls, who served on landing craft as an able seaman with the Royal Navy in the Far East. After his death, Julia has helped keep the memories alive of those who served.
“Alan told me that on VJ Day in 1945, his unit was too busy looking ahead for the next operation down the coast of Malaya and for a while continued as normal. They were still moving towards Singapore to believe it was all over. It came as a great relief to everyone.”
Carrying the Burma Star Association’s standard for the very last time was Dave Tribble, who took over as standard bearer several years ago when veteran Ron Case died.
“It is a great honour to be asked to carry the standard and represent the association at major events and parades in the region,” said Dave.
“It’s an emotional day, especially with John being here as our last veteran in Torbay, but it’s such a great honour to be asked to do this. John is a great character and I could sit and listen to his stories and experiences all night. You can read all the books, but to actually speak to these people, brings home the real meaning of what they went through.”