August Last Post

A remarkable ceremony as it is the first ceremony that we have remembered not only a Commonwealth or allied loss, but as the 75th anniversary of VJ Day is on 15th August we also remembered the enemy.

We remembered Private Mathijs and Warrant Officer Robinson.

75 years ago today, Belgian Army soldier Private Guillaume Mathijs, aged 28 died here in England on 2nd August 1945, he is buried in plot 26, row B, grave 9.

Even on the last day of the war, 15th August 1945, there was the death in service of a soldier buried at Brookwood – Warrant Officer II George Edward Robinson, service no. 6768279 of the Royal Artillery, aged 39, son of George Paul and Alice Maud Robinson, husband of Minnie Robinson, of Sutton, Surrey. He is buried in plot 5, row B, grave 17.

Our poem also reflected the Far East war and research surrounding it revealed a surprising, and relatively-local, connection.

The untitled poem is one of the more intriguing – and shortest – of the famous poems of WWII and was penned by Admiral Takijiro Onishi of the Imperial Japanese Navy.

Onishi was one of the early architects of the Imperial Japanese Navy’s air service, the force that inflicted crippling losses on the United States’ fleet at Pearl Harbor. Ironically, Onishi was one of those who had opposed the attack, foreseeing that it would lead to a war that he correctly predicted Japan could not win.

Admiral Onishi was later erroneously credited with the creation of the kamikaze suicide attack as a weapon. In reality, he had originally been against the tactic, but came to accept that it was possibly the best way to use his dwindling numbers of pilots and aircraft against overwhelmingly superior enemy forces.

Onishi was also an accomplished poet and often presented his troops and pilots with pieces written in traditional Japanese calligraphy. His most striking poem, just ten words long and therefore the shortest that we have used at Brookwood, was reserved for his suicide note. For on 16th August 1945, after Japan surrendered on the 15th, Onishi committed suicide by seppuku, also known as harakiri, having sent thousands of Japanese airmen to their deaths in a war they had ultimately lost.

He wrote simply:

Refreshed, I feel like the clear moon. After the storm.

The relatively-local connection came from our Association’s historian finding that Onishi had been sent to England from 1918 to 1919 by the Imperial Japanese Navy to learn to fly with the new Royal Air Force’s Central Flying School at RAF Netheravon in Wiltshire, only 40 miles from Brookwood. Onishi was also to study Britain’s increasing use of aircraft carriers – a development that Japan was to copy with devastating effect.

VJ Day 2020 will be the final act of remembrance for the 75th anniversaries of the Second World War, but 80th anniversaries of 1940 are also now already occurring, reminding us that the war continued for six, long years. We therefore remembered two soldiers of the Canadian Army that had come to Britain in 1940, in the early, and some of the darkest, days of the war, to help defend our shores against an expected German invasion. Both died 80 years ago today, on 2nd August 1940:

Gunner Edward Paul Brandenburg, service no. M/4038 of 2nd Field Regiment, Royal Canadian Artillery, aged 24, son of Ferdinand and Martha Brandenburg of Edmonton, Alberta, Canada and buried in plot 3, row O, grave 8.

Private Louis Lavoie, service no. E/4177 of Royal 22e Régiment (Royal Vingt-Deuxieme regiment – the famous infantry regiment, the Van Doos), aged 25, son of Sylvio and Lucia Lavoie of Bic, Quebec Province, Canada, buried alongside Gunner Brandenburg in plot 3, row O, grave 7.

We had several standards on parade. Our Standard Bearer was Alan Lopez and bugler Mrs Ruth Moore.

Historical research and notes by Paul McCue of the Secret WW2 Learning Network.