Captain Sir Tom Moore reveals how he carried around a suicide pill in case he was captured by Japanese troops as he fought in Burma during WWII
- Captain Sir Tom Moore, 100, fought Japanese Imperial Forces in Burma
- He said he was given a suicide pill to take in case he was captured by the enemy
- Despite the danger, Sir Tom said he was not afraid of facing the Japanese army
- He was speaking in advance of Saturday’s 75th anniversary of VJ Day
Captain Sir Tom Moore has revealed he carried a suicide pill in case he was captured by Japanese troops during the Burma campaign in World War II.
The centenarian former army officer was commenting ahead of the 75th Anniversary of Victory in Japan day, when Emperor Michinomiya Hirohito announced the unconditional surrender of his Imperial forces.
Sir Tom remembered his comrades ahead of VJ Day on Saturday, which will mark 75 years since the surrender of Japan and the effective end of the century-defining conflict.
WWII veteran Captain Sir Tom Moore, pictured, revealed he carried a suicide pill with him while fighting Japanese Imperial Forces in Burma
Sir Tom, pictured centre on a tank with some of his men said he was not afraid of the Japanese during the war. Speaking ahead of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan day, he told the Radio Times: ‘I wasn’t very scared. Not really. At one stage we were given a pill that, well, it did you in completely. ‘That was to swallow in case we were captured and forced to give up information’
In an interview with the Radio Times, the NHS fundraising champion recalled his time serving in Burma (now Myanmar) and contracting dengue fever in the sweltering conditions.
He told the magazine: ‘I wasn’t very scared. Not really. At one stage we were given a pill that, well, it did you in completely.
‘That was to swallow in case we were captured and forced to give up information.’
The Royal British Legion has announced plans to mark the 75th anniversary of VJ Day (Victory over Japan), to highlight the ‘forgotten history’ of those who helped bring an end to the Second World War on August 15 1945.
Sir Tom told the Radio Times he did not give in to despair during his time in the Far East, adding: ‘In Burma I never thought of disaster. I always thought we would win and looked forward to the time when we would keep the flag flying in peace.’
The full story can be read on the Radio Times website.
The 75th anniversary will take place on Saturday, although plans to commemorate the date have been scaled back because of Covid-19.
Prince Charles and Camilla will lead the nation in a two-minute silence held at teh National Memorial Arboretum in Staffordshire.
Among those at the event will be 93-year-old Albert Wills, who served in the Far East aboard HMS Indefatigable.
Sir Tom, pictured, was commenting in advance of the 75th anniversary of Victory in Japan day, which will take place on Saturday
The Red Arrows will also conduct a nationwide flypast, routing over Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff and London – including flying over head the Royal Hospital in Chelsea.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said: ‘When the Second World War ended 75 years ago with the surrender of Japan, British soldiers, sailors and airmen were serving in the Far East, fighting hard to achieve victory – and were among the last to come home.
‘On this anniversary I want to remember what we owe the veterans of the Far East campaign. They brought an end to the Second World War, they changed the course of history for the better, liberated South East Asia, and many paid the ultimate sacrifice.
‘That’s why on this remarkable anniversary – and every day hereafter – we will remember them.’
Defence Secretary Ben Wallace added: ‘VJ Day is sometimes seen as the forgotten victory, but this year, on its 75th anniversary, our celebrations are rightly focused on paying special tribute to the Greatest Generation and their service and sacrifice in the Far East. I will be thinking of the unique hardships faced by those who served, and thanking them for all they did for us.
‘The partnerships forged during the Far East campaign continue to thrive today. It’s a unique honour for me as Defence Secretary to meet Second World War veterans in person at important commemorations such as these. As a former Army officer, I understand just how much today’s troops are inspired by those who came before them.
‘I am proud we have put together such a full programme of events and look forward to paying tribute to our amazing Asia pacific war veterans.’
Sir Tom added: ‘In Burma I never thought of disaster. I always thought we would win and looked forward to the time when we would keep the flag flying in peace’
Sir Tom’s role was to ride to the frontline on a motorbike because he was an expert motorcyclist, having bought his first vehicle aged 12 (pictured, sitting with trophies)
The ‘Forgotten War’: Burma’s involvement in the Second World War
The Burma campaign was a series of battles fought in the then British colony of Burma, now Mynamar.
It was part of the South-East Asian theatre of the world war, and primarily involved the Allied powers: the British Empire, the US, and China.
They faced Imperial Japan, supported by the Thai Phayap Army and two collaborationist independent movements and armies, the first being the Burma Independence Army.
Puppet states were established in the conquered areas and territories were annexed, while the Allied forces in British India launched several failed offensives before August 1945.
There were four phases: the Japanese conquest of Burma in 1942; failed attempts by the Allies to mount offensives into Burma from 1942 to early 1944; the 1944 Japanese invasion of India, which ultimately failed following the Battles of Imphal and Kohima; and the successful Allied re-occupation of Burma by mid-1945.
The Burma campaign was the only land campaign by the Western Allies in the Pacific Theatre. It was prolonged by seasonal monsoon rains, which allowed effective campaigning for only just half of each year; by famine and disorder in British India; and by the priority given to defeating Germany.
Sir Tom previously spoke about his role in the war as Britain prepared to mark VE Day.
While serving in the brutal Burma campaign, known as the ‘Forgotten War’, his role was to fight on the frontline while riding a motorbike.
His involvement in the world war began in 1940, when the then 20-year-old Yorkshireman was conscripted into the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment.
He was posted to India, then under British control, the following year.
‘Being conscripted didn’t do me any harm at all,’ he told ITV.
‘The reason for conscription was that the country had got desperately short of soldiers. I didn’t mind at all. I mean at 20 you don’t think too hard about it.
‘I thought, “Oh great, it’s going to be great”.’
He describes India as ‘an entirely different world to anything I’ve ever been in before’, and says the air conditioning they had was ‘quite necessary’.
‘It did get a bit hot,’ Captain Tom chuckles
One million Allied troops from 40 countries attempted to repel Imperial Japan from Burma over almost three years, between 1942 and 1945.
Speaking of the Japanese fighters, he recalled: ‘They were quite a formidable force because there were people who didn’t mind if they died’.
He added: ‘They were awful, they were what we say, were completely without morals. They starved people to death and didn’t care. That was bad.’
‘I was only 21 or 22,’ he admits. ‘You don’t get very frightened at 22’.
Sir Tom’s role was to ride to the frontline on a motorbike because he was an expert motorcyclist, having bought his first vehicle aged 12.
‘During the night, I was at the forefront with the Indian Army, fighting the night Japanese. And then, in the morning, when we thought the Japanese had gone home, my motorcycle came back into the picture.’
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