VJ Day

VJ Day: Prince Philip Recalls Watching Japan's 1945 Surrender

The then-24-year-old prince was serving in the Royal Navy in Tokyo Bay when Japan surrendered on 15 August, 1945.

Prince Philip was never meant to be in Japan in August 1945 at all.

In a 1995 interview, the Duke of Edinburgh recalled how he found himself in Tokyo Bay on VJ Day with the Royal Navy, after travelling from Guam following the bombing of Hiroshima on 6 August.

The Naval officer had been escorting the Commander-in-Chief, Sir Bruce Fraser on a visit to Admiral Nimitz, Commander in Chief South Pacific area to make him a knight of Bath.

The Duke was posted to HMS Whelp at the time, then a brand-new destroyer.

"While we were there, the first of the atomic bombs was dropped," Prince Philip told Richard Astbury during the 1995 interview.

"Almost immediately, we sailed from Guam to re-join the big American fleet off Japan of which the British Pacific fleet formed one task group out of six.

"We hung about there until the second bomb was dropped and then it was announced that the Japanese decided to cease hostilities - they didn't actually surrender [on 14 August].

Prince Philip with beard, 1945
Prince Philip said it was a "wonderful feeling" to know the war was over (Picture: PA).

"A small party was formed of the Fleet Commander - it was Admiral Halsey - and Sir Bruce Fraser, the Duke of York… there was this little party of six destroyers and two battleships, [that] went off to Japan."

When they arrived, they anchored the destroyer HMS Whelp in Sagami Bay.

The vessel was escorting the USS Missouri when the Japanese surrender took place.

"We waited there for 24 hours, and then this party went into Tokyo Bay," the prince remembered.

Japan surrendered on 15 August 1945, now known as Victory over Japan Day.

The surrender, however, was formally signed on 2 September 1945 - the day World War Two officially ended.

"Being in Tokyo Bay with the surrender ceremony taking place in the battleship which was, what, 200 yards away.

"You could see what was going on with a pair of binoculars."

"The beat retreat was in the King George V, that was Admiral Rawley's, who was second-in-command," Prince Philip added.

"Everybody moved over there. I wasn't on board but you could hear it going on."

By that point, a lot of other ships had come in to the area.

One of the final jobs Philip carried out during the war while on Whelp was to escort prisoners of war (POWs) from Tokyo Bay.

"That was very emotional," he remembered.

"These people were naval people - they hadn't been in a naval atmosphere for three or four years, sometimes longer.

"Our ship's company recognised that they were also fellow sailors, so we gave them a cup of tea.

"They just sat there, both sides our own and them, tears pouring down their cheeks.

"They really couldn't speak, it was the most extraordinary sensation. It affected everybody."

HMS Whelp spent several days escorting the POWs.

Prince Philip Royal Navy officer
The Duke of Edinburgh was mentioned in dispatches for his role in the Battle of Cape Matapan, earlier in the war (Picture: PA).

Knowing the war was over, Prince Philip remembered: "It was a great relief.

"It was a wonderful feeling.

"From there, we went on to Hong Kong and the most extraordinary sensation when we sailed, we suddenly realised we didn’t have to darken ship anymore, we didn’t have to close all the scuttles, we didn’t have to turn the lights out.

"We actually stopped in the South China Sea and piped hands to bathe…[you] couldn’t imagine doing that in the Mediterranean, when the heat was on, you couldn’t do anything like that.

"Suddenly, all these little things built up to suddenly feeling that life was different."

Members of the Royal Family will attend a service of remembrance on 15 August and the 99-year-old Duke will appear on screens across the country in a photo montage alongside other veterans.

The Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall will take part in commemorations at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.