Betty James, president of Royal Canadian Legion, Branch 53, lays a wreath at the Duncan Cenotaph on Aug. 15 in a ceremony to commemorate those lost during the Burma Campaign in the Second World War. (Robert Barron/Citizen)

Ceremony held in Duncan to commemorate Burma Campaign

Soldiers who fought in campaign known as the “Forgotten Army”

The annual Burma Star memorial was held at the Duncan Cenotaph on Aug. 15.

Several members of the Cowichan Valley’s Royal Canadian Legion Branch 53 were on hand for the short ceremony, in which branch president Betty James placed a wreath commemorating those Canadians who lost their lives in the campaign, and in other wars and battles.

According to the Royal Canadian Legion, the Burma Campaign took place between Dec. 11, 1941 and Sept. 2, 1945, commencing with Japanese forces invading Burma and driving British forces back to the Indian border.

Since the Japanese held superiority in the Pacific, the Allies were not in a position to strike back and regain a foothold in Burma until early in 1944.

The total surrender of the Japanese came on Sept. 2, 1945.

The Burma Star was instituted by the United Kingdom in May 1945 as an award to those who had served in operations in the Burma Campaign during that period.

Approximately 8,000 Canadians served in the Burma Campaign, including Duncan’s Major Charles Hoey, after whom Charles Hoey Park is named and where the Cenotaph is located.

Hoey earned a Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for military honour, in Burma for his heroic leadership in the clearing of an enemy stronghold in February, 1944.

Despite serious wounds, he continued with the attack and single-handedly eliminated a Japanese machine-gun position which was keeping his men from advancing.

Hoey died during the effort and his name is listed on the Duncan Cenotaph.

The Canadians who served in the Burma Campaign were among the more than one million men and women from Canada who served in the Second World War.

Second World War