H.M.H.S. Somersetshire's return home, Liverpool, V J Day 1945

Discussion in 'Burma & India' started by High Wood, Nov 19, 2020.

  1. High Wood

    High Wood Well-Known Member

    I have just unearthed this article in 17th August, 1945 edition of the Liverpool Echo.

    “Forgotten” Army say they were again forgotten. V.J. Day.

    Five hundred men of Burma’s “Forgotten Army” feel that Liverpool has confirmed their earlier belief that they are indeed forgotten. Blind, legless and maimed, they arrived in the Mersey on the morning of V J Day in the Hospital Ship Somersetshire and, marooned at anchor in the Slogne, watched miserably and uncomforted, our celebrations without being able to take part in them.

    They appreciated the difficulties of the embarkation staffs and Port Authorities in not being able to land them in time for participation ashore in the celebrations, but are resentful because no one came to bid them welcome home after four years fighting in jungle swamps. During the two day celebration the men were issued with three pints of beer per man, one of which was free, and this provided by a whip round amongst the shore military personnel.

    As one soldier, who had lost a leg in the Burma jungle told an Echo reporter, “We had a copy of your paper, which said that Liverpool was spending £15,000 on its V J celebrations” and added bitterly, “I hope you enjoyed it”.

    The officers agree.

    The wounded Army, Navy and Air Force officers on board are even more resentful than the men. One officer told our reporter, “We think it is a damned shame that these men could not be shown a little appreciation. We were alright. We could get a drink when we wanted it, which softened somewhat our inability to get ashore and join in the celebrations, but for the men! Well, I am at a loss to describe the disgust of myself and my brother officers. Liverpool has always had a good name for hospitality, but something certainly went wrong this time”. As he was talking to the Echo reporter, a party of women from the Wallasey and Birkenhead division of the Red Cross approached the gangway with baskets full of cigarettes for distribution among the men.

    Their own fireworks.

    The Echo reporter sought to obtain some explanation for what happened. There is no doubt that the ship’s officers were sympathetic and prepared, and did, do all that was humanly possible to alleviate the misery of the men who crowded to the ship’s side to watch Liverpool’s fire work displays, and listen to the roar of the cheering crowds.

    One of the ship’s officers, in an attempt to brighten up their lot, shot off some of the lifeboat flares, and another, at the Captain’s suggestion, got busy contacting Liverpool’s Naval Welfare officers with the result that yesterday an E.N.S.A. party came aboard and did their best to brighten the men’s spirits.

    Difficulties did exist.

    Inquiries show that there did exist difficulties in the way of going ashore to join the celebrations there. It would have been dangerous to have left these men, who were badly crippled, at the mercy of people whose appreciation might have resulted in them, accidently, receiving further injury.

    Only one tug.

    In addition, there was the fact that all except one tug in the Mersey ceased service during the celebrations. This tug gave priority to the Somersetshire, but it alone could not have docked the vessel, even though other facilities were unobtainable.

    On the matter of a free supply of beer to the men, it was pointed out that many of these men were cases to whom it would have been inadvisable to give alcoholic drinks. The exigencies of their medial requirements forbade it.

    When this was pointed out to some of the men, a spokesman said, “alright, we can understand that it wouldn’t do to give some a drink but not others, but what was to stop Liverpool sending someone out to say hello? It would have cheered us up a bit and shown we were not forgotten”.
     
    4jonboy, Hugh MacLean, Rothy and 4 others like this.

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