WHILE the Second World War ended in Europe in May 1945, many thousands of British forces were still fighting and risking their lives overseas in Asia.

The Japanese army didn't surrender until three months later, and August 15, 2020, marks the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

Among those fighting in Asia were the 1st Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry.

John Gudge, who spent 22 years as the chairman of Chard's Royal British Legion branch, has paid tribute to the county's forces, which included his father, Lance Corporal Rupert Gudge.

John, who himself also served in Asia with the British army in the 1960s, said: "The troopship Nevasa sailed from Southampton to Haldia in West Bengal, India, and transported to somewhere in Burmah.

"While fighting the Japanese in the jungles of Burmah, Rupert received two wounds, the first coming soon after his arrival at camp.

"Whilst shaving, a sniper took a shot at him and if he had not moved, he may have been hit in the back of the head.

"The round hit his mirror, smashing it to bits, some of which flew into his mouth, making a mess of his face, and caused him to spend a week in the sick bay."

L/cpl Rupert Gudge was serving under the commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel John Harding.

John added: "About a year later, whilst on one of their many patrols, Rupert was captured along with his patrol. There were about a dozen of them.

"Rupert was one of the more athletic men, and his sergeant made it clear, that if he saw a chance, they would create a disturbance in order to divert their captors.

"At one point, the sergeant and Rupert gingerly nodded at each other. The sergeant then proceeded to verbally chastise two of the men, shouting, and while the Japanese were paying attention to the disturbance, Rupert made his bid for freedom, running for his life.

"The Japanese opened fire, as Rupert was still in range. Then a round hit him behind the knee, which put and end to he escape. He rolled down the hillside into some undergrowth and lay perfectly still."

Some of Rupert's captors searched for him, but were unsuccessful. In the end they left him for dead. 

"Many hours later, Rupert's luck was in again, as a Gurkha patrol picked him up in great pain and confused and took him back to his unit," John said.

"He was able to roughly give their last known position. A large patrol was sent out, and all his comrades but two were rescued.

"Rupert was in hospital, and was told his war was over, when he saw a notice requiring Medical Orderlies, so he applied. They trained him and put him on a ward doing Light duties, as he was still using a walking stick.

"About a year later, they all heard about the surrender of the Germans in Europe, but the Japanese had not yet seen a reason to follow suit. The war went on. .

"Some of Rupert's Somerset Light Infantry comrades were seen coming into the hospital, being visited by their commanding officer Lt Col Harding.

"The hospital CO (commanding officer) called for Rupert at one point, saying Col Harding would like a word. He told Rupert, he wanted to promote him to WO2 (warrant officer class two). Rupert declined, stating when the war is ended, he just wants  to go home and stay there. 

"On 15th August 1945, the Japanese forces surrendered, thus ending the Second World War conflict completely.

"Rupert sailed home along with his unit and arrived back in Taunton at The Regimental HQ of The Somerset Light Infantry. Then Rupert was demobilised."

The British Legion nationally will be marking VJ Day with a two minute silence at 11am on August 15.

You can watch the socially-distanced commemorations at the National Memorial Arboretum on BBC One.