VJ Day

VJ Day: Veterans Recall Dodging Kamikaze And Sniper Attacks

The two Navy veterans share their experiences of dodging sniper fire and kamikaze attacks in the lead up to VJ Day in 1945.

Two Royal Navy veterans have shared their experiences of celebrating the first VJ Day after surviving deadly sniper fire and kamikaze attacks.

Richard Edser, 94, served as a seaman on board the aricraft carrier HMS Formidable in east Asia.

He signed up aged 17 with his naval career taking him from Belfast and Norway to Gibraltar and the Pacific.

Speaking ahead of the 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan (VJ) Day, he remembered his ship being struck by a Japanese kamikaze plane on 5 May 1945.

It was followed three days later by another and initially Mr Edser was unsure of the scale of the damage.

"We didn’t see it until after the action was over, but we had to sweep the deck with all the debris," he said.

"All they found of the pilot was one arm, with his wrist watch on."

In those moments Mr Edser said he often turned to prayer.

"I’m not afraid to say that, I used to pray that I come out alright," he said.

However despite these attacks, Mr Edser said the crew still found a chance to have fun.

The crew would play "deck hockey" on board and arrange boxing matches.

Later, he would miss out on the parade through Sydney after the Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945, due to being on leave. 

He recalled very little celebration when HMS Formidable later returned to England in 1946.

Veteran Alfie Lee recalled being attacked by sniper fire on the day Japan surrendered (Picture: Dick Goodwin/ The Taxi Charity).

"Nobody was on the jetty at all, that’s why we're called the forgotten fleet," he said.

"When we came back to England it was just another day."

Sadly Mr Edser died on 12 August, just three days before the 75th anniversary.

Alfie “Fred” Lee, 95, also signed up at 17 and ended up on HMS Nith, a River-class frigate.

Having very little experience out at sea, he learned the ropes working as a "stoker" in the ship’s boiler room.

The Nith travelled to India, helping to move troops, where Mr Lee bumped into his brother.

The pair had not realised they were both at D-Day, having last been together a year before when Mr Lee was best man at his brother’s wedding.

View of a beach in Normandy during the Allied invasion on D-Day 060644 CREDIT PA - downloaded on 050620
Mr Lee, and his brother, were involved in the Normandy Landings in June 1944 - a turning point in the war (Picture: PA).

On the day the Japanese surrendered, HMS Nith was heading to Rangoon, Burma (now Myanmar), where it was attacked by sniper fire. 

Mr Lee said: "I didn’t realise what it was, all I could hear on the side of the ship was ‘ping, ping, ping’ and I said to somebody ‘what’s that?’. They were up in the cranes."

Nevertheless the crew were able to celebrate the end of the war at sea over "two bottles of beer a piece".

"That’s more than we did VE Day, we never celebrated anything VE Day," Mr Lee said. "We were still too busy."

After spending 13 months at sea, he returned to England in March 1946.

"There was nobody there to say hello or anything, you just parked the ship up and that was it," Mr Lee said.

Both men have been supported by the Taxi Charity for Military Veterans which arranges special days out with the help of London licensed taxi drivers, who this year are delivering commemorative tins to servicemen.

Cover image: Richard Edser experienced multiple kamikaze attacks by the Japanese during the war (Picture: Dick Goodwin/ The Taxi Charity).