VJ Day: WWII veteran recounts life as a prisoner of war

Len Gibson Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

By Kris Jepson

Months after the Second World War had ended in Europe, there was still an ongoing conflict in the Far East. 

Saturday marks the 75th anniversary of VJ Day or Victory in Japan Day. 

Len Gibson, 100, of West Herrington, Houghton Le Spring, fought in what is known as the "forgotten army" and was captured by the Japanese military in Singapore in 1942. What followed for him was years of hard labour in the jungle.

Watch Kris Jepson's report here:

Bombardier Len Gibson's served in 125 Anti-Tank Regiment of the Royal Artillery. In 1941 they were heading for North Africa, but following the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, they were diverted to East Asia.

He told ITV News how he was taken as a prisoner of war by the Japanese Army in Singapore, after fighting for just 10 days following his ship being bombed and being forced to swim to shore.

Len Gibson

He said: "We were bombed, shelled, sniped, one of our officers was killed. A sergeant went out to help him and he was wounded.

"One of our gunners had his hat blown off after only 10 days fighting, we became prisoners of war."

Mr Gibson said they were badly treated by the "bully" Japanese army.

He was forced to work on the infamous Burma railway, the "Death Railway", before being sent to Mergui Road.

Starving and wearing only a rag around his waist, he had to do hard labour in the jungle in bare feet for two years, as the men created a route for the Japanese Army.

Len Gibson

He said: "We had no idea that the war had been finished in Europe months before, so whilst the people in Europe were thinking the war had finished, terrible things were going on."

Remembering the day he was liberated, Len said he and his men could not believe the war was over.

He remembers one Japanese soldier gave him a simple message, saying 'War finish in Gando, Japan. Shake hands. All men go home. Ok' and that was it.

"We had no idea that the war had been finished in Europe months before".