VJ Day (Updated)/ Roddy Ross/ Shasta Contest/ Worlds on BBC Alba

Today is the celebration of VJ Day, Victory over Japan Day, in the UK. To mark the occasion a piper played When the Battle’s O’er on board HMS Belfast now moored on the Thames in London but a ship that formed part of the Royal Navy’s Pacific fleet in WW2.

The national celebrations were led by HRH The Prince of Wales at the National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.

When the Battle’s O’er was played by P/Sgt Neil Esslemont of RAF Halton Pipes & Drums on board HMS Belfast today
Gurkha piper Clr Sgt Lil Bahadur Gurung plays The Flowers of the Forest at the National Arboretum Memorial in Staffordshire

Pipers might like to play the tune Lt John Young by P/M Peter MacInnes written to commemorate the sacrifice of a young Glasgow officer who gave his life for his men at Kohima in 1944. Read the story here.

We can admire the picture of Dr Roddy Ross, author of the celebrated Binneas is Boreraig piobaireachd collection. It shows this remarkable man having a tune in the jungle after being parachuted in to establish a field hospital in Malaya in 1945 (top).

Referring to the sometimes scant regard given to the Far East Campaign, Dr Ross recalled: ‘We were to join General Sir Philip Christison’s assault on Rangoon. Christison turned the tide against the Japanese and the praises given to him were well deserved. I don’t know why he has been so forgotten.

‘Of the campaign I can say that injured and uninjured endured mud, monsoon rain, malaria and dysentry. Night was the worst, with the men unable to see who was shooting at them.

‘Later when the Japanese were in full retreat for 1,000 miles they would shout in the night ‘Englishmen, Englishmen’ to taunt us. This caused great annoyance because most of us were Scots.’

One gruesome task Dr Ross had at the end of the war was to exhume the badly mutilated bodies of Allied servicemen. After the war Sir Philip was Chairman of the BBC’s Piping Sub-Committee and it was this committee which recommended the publication of the ‘Piobaireachd- Classical Music of the Highland Bagpipe’, reviewed on PP yesterday, to the Broadcasting Council for Scotland.

The late Lt. Col. DJS Murray also served in the Far East seeing action at Kohima. You can read more about pipers and tunes associated with Britain’s Far East Campaign in the PP article by Harry Stevenson here.

Entries for the Shasta Piobaireachd Composing contest close tonight at midnight California time. Get your tunes to Steve Rooklidge by then to have a chance of the £500 first prize.

Don’t forget to tune in tonight for the BBC Alba extravaganza on the Worlds. The programme is in Gaelic with English subtitles but will be no less enjoyable for that. Details of the show here.

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