Dr Mayne would weigh each word carefully. A reflective and undemonstrative man, who was unafraid to sit in silence; a quizzical look from him was sufficient to convey the suggestion that he might not agree with something that had been said.
A Dubliner who had been born during the First World War, he would recount with passion and anger stories of the poverty he encountered in the city during his days as a young doctor. When the Second World War came, he joined the Royal Army Medical Corps to serve as a medical officer in the British Army.
Dr Mayne was among the thousands of soldiers serving with the British Army who were captured by the Japanese Army at the fall of Singapore in 1942. Being a doctor, it fell to him to act as medical officer in the prisoner of war camp in which he was held. It was a doubly horrifying time, working without proper medication or equipment to try to preserve the lives of those for whom he was caring, while struggling for survival himself. When the prisoner of war camp was liberated by the Allies, he had weighed just five stones. Photographs of camp survivors cannot capture a fraction of a sense of what it was that they had experienced.
Dr Mayne did not regard himself as a hero. He would smile when recounting that he had been issued with a revolver, which he had fired only twice, pointing in the air and pulling the trigger to frighten away men who appeared to be about to steal his jeep. His war, as that of the many thousands who had been prisoners, had been one of endurance.
The war against Japan has not gone uncommemorated, and perhaps it is natural that events at home and in countries just across the English Channel should have received greater attention, but the sense that the war in the Far East was fought by a “forgotten army” is a sense that still endures seventy-five years later.
Dr Mayne would probably have been unsurprised that while the seventy-fifth anniversary of VE Day will be a public holiday on 8th May 2020, no such provision has been made for VJ Day. For the remaining veterans of the horrific conflicts in the Far East, there must be a feeling that their sacrifice seems not to be worthy of equivalent recognition.
A petition to parliament to give the anniversary of VJ Day a status comparable to that of VE Day has been established on the Houses of Parliament website. Should you think that Dr Mayne and his comrades deserve appropriate acknowledgement, please click on the link and sign the petition: