Northumberland war veteran, 94, recalls his memories of VE Day

VE Day holds mixed memories for Northumberland war veteran Jim Walker.

Thursday, 7th May 2020, 2:24 pm
Updated Thursday, 7th May 2020, 2:24 pm

The 94-year-old was serving with the 25th Dragoons regiment of the British Army when the end of war in Europe was announced on May 8, 1945.

However, the Second World War was not over for Jim and thousands of others as he was stationed in India preparing for an invasion of Japanse-held Malaya.

“I remember VE Day but it meant very little to us at the time,” recalled Jim, now living in Spittal, Berwick.

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Jim Walker was serving with 25th Dragoons in India on VE Day.

“We were given a tiny bottle of American beer to mark the occasion but otherwise it was a normal day.

“We were training in amphibious tanks of Cocanada (now Kakinada) in preparation for spearheading an invasion of Malaysia.

“We were thankful that at least one part of the war had ended in victory but we were still very much engaged in the war in the Far East.”

Three months later, the tank landing craft assembled 80 miles north of Singapore near what was supposed to be an undefended beach.

Jim Walker, second from the right, and colleagues.

“It turned out to be heavily defended,” said Jim. “If it had not been for the atomic bombs being dropped (on the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945) we probably would have failed. The tommy bombs changed the whole operation. They were a tremendous blow to the Japanese.

“Of course, we didn’t know all this at the time. It took quite a while before the news filtered through to us. We heard reports of jubilation back home but it was a hard slog for us in very hot and humid conditions.”

Jim, who grew up in the Scottish Borders, was in the RAF working as a field mechanic when he was told he was being called up by the army.

“They wanted anyone with experience in mechanics or engineering to replace the tank crews they had lost in the invasion of Normandy,” said Jim. “At the time we didn’t know so many people had died.”

An amphibious tank in the water.

After the war he worked as a bank manager in Selkirk for 22 years before retiring to Berwick. He has gone on to write numerous local history books.

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