August 21st 2008
Newspaper Article - Harlow Star
War veteran Alan Smith survived the horrors of the Japanese POW camps. He wanted to pay his respects to those who did not return. But then Harlow Council told the town's Far East Prisoner of War Association to postpone its annual VJ Day remembrance service. The reason? So workmen could paint some white lines in a car park
COUNCIL chiefs were accused this week of showing a lack of respect after ordering war veterans to postpone a remembrance service for Second World War heroes.
Members of the Far East Prisoner of War Association were shocked when they were told they would have to cancel Friday's Victory over Japan Day service in the Town Park because workmen were due to paint white lines in a public car park where the memorial stone is situated.
Furious FEPOW secretary Shirley Simpkin spent the morning arguing with council officials who at first insisted the group would have to rearrange their service for another day.
But she pointed out that VJ Day only happened once a year and branded the council disrespectful. Eventually it backed down just one hour before the service was due to take place.
"I couldn't believe the attitude of the council," Mrs Simpkin told the Star. 'They were telling us we had to cancel the service but you can't just rearrange VJ Day because some lines had to he painted in a car park.
"It showed a distinct lack of respect for these brave men who had to endure such horrific suffering at the hands of their Japanese captors.
"There may be only two veterans left with us in our branch but this day is so important for them and to try and deny them their right to remember their friends and colleagues is shocking."
Alan Smith (86), who spent three years in a Japanese POW camp after being captured by the crew of a German ship, added: "There are so many memories of my time as a prisoner of war and it's important for me to come along to a remembrance service like this to reflect on that time of my life. I will never forget."
A Harlow Council spokeswoman apologised to the association and said the problem had arisen because Friday had been the only day available for contractors to complete the necessary work.
"This has been a very big mistake and we're sorry for any inconvenience it has caused," she said, "We needed to have the white lines repainted but didn’t realise it would disrupt a memorial service."
ALAN SMITH: 'It's important for me to come along to a remembrance service like this'