THE 75th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day has a special poignancy for my family as it will, I’m sure, for many thousands of others.

My father, Thomas Ernest Nutt, served in the Far East from 1943 until 1946 during what’s now known as the “forgotten war”.

He would have been so proud to have taken part in today’s VJ Day commemorations, although he would no doubt have found an online ceremony rather alien.

Tragically, however, dad missed out on the landmark events by just a couple of months.

He died in a care home on June 12 after contracting the coronavirus, unable to say goodbye to those he loved. It was a cruel end for a man who had always regarded himself as one of life’s lucky ones.

Dad was a natural optimist. Affable and ebullient, he seemed to many people to possess a sense of being truly blessed.

The feeling, I’m sure, helped see him through to the grand old age of 97 and was undoubtedly re-inforced by surviving Second World War service with the Royal Air Force in Burma and India.

School friends were killed in action, comrades slain and captured, but the fates were on his side.

This realisation struck him on his voyage home at the end of the war on the troop carrier the Capetown Castle. In an account he wrote and in my chats with him, he described some of the less fortunate veterans on the vessel.

He spoke of them looking close to skeletons, their eyes staring out blankly in their joyless faces. They were men (he didn’t mention any women) who were physically and mentally broken either as a result of the fighting or their struggle in prisoner of war camps where they endured forced labour, torture, and starvation.

The memory of their tragic condition stayed with dad for the rest of his life.

In 1943, the sea journey out to the Far East could not have been more different. Aged 19, and not long out of school in the small town of Ballymoney, in County Antrim, Northern Ireland, my father stepped on to the troop carrier, the Dominion Monarch, in Liverpool in January of that year. It was the first time he had ever travelled overseas.

Around 4000 army and air force personnel were on board the massive ship. Dad described much hustle and bustle among the young passengers.

He and his comrades had not been told where they were being deployed to, but as they had been issued with tropical kit they knew it was somewhere hot.

Daily lifeboats drills helped pass the time as anticipation turned to boredom over seven weeks at sea.

The National: Second World War troops in IndiaSecond World War troops in India

Thomas E. Nutt, 2nd from left in back row pictured with RAF colleagues in Burma during WW2.     ©Nutt family

READ MORE: VJ Day: This is how Japan surrendered to save its emperor

Excitement returned when the ship reached Mumbai and the soldiers and airmen landed in a city teeming with people, sacred cows and rickshaws. Dad was struck by the beauty of the turquoise shimmer of the Arabian Sea.

From Mumbai my father was sent to Burma, most of which was occupied by the Japanese. He worked as an RAF electrician with Air Support Control 23 (ASC22 had been wiped out by the enemy), taking messages from General Orde Wingate’s First Expeditionary Force, known as the Chindits, who were fighting behind enemy lines in Burma to stop the Japanese invading India.

The Chindits would request support from dad’s unit, whose task was to drop off supplies of food, personnel and even mules to them by plane. Although dad never described it as such, his job was dangerous. It involved pushing out the items through an open plane door as it flew over enemy territory.

He and his comrades were attached to wires as they threw out the objects. In one terrifying incident witnessed by dad, an airman fell out of the plane and dangled below it before he could be dragged back inside.

My father’s deployment to Burma came to a halt when the Japanese were on the point of capturing his camp. He and his comrades managed to grab a few things and flee. They criss-crossed the land to avoid the Japanese soldiers and with the help of local people reached the town of Kohima.

There they boarded a paddle steamer and sailed to safety – and eventually to a new posting with Squadron 31 at an RAF base in Kharagpur, near Calcutta.At Kharagpur dad worked as an electrician, servicing the electrical components of the RAF’s Dakota aircraft. He was out of immediate danger.

Months later though he was on the move again, this time to Agartala, not far from the Burma border, where he returned to duties supplying the Chindits.

At other points of his service in India dad helped to train Ghurka paratroopers. He took troops on planes into Burma and worked on transport gliders.

There were happy moments, too. He flew past Mount Everest during one outing and his unit enjoyed a memorable day-long visit from Vera Lynn when they were stationed at Agartala.

He longed though for the war to end and to return home, missing his parents, sister and brothers back in Ballymoney.

However, he remembered no rejoicing when the Americans dropped the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing a quarter-of-a-million people.

He felt horror.

One paragraph in his account summed up what he later thought about his service: “At the time, I suppose no-one thought that 31 Squadron was very different from any other squadron.

“But now when I look back on it, I think it was unique. We did not drop bombs or go out to shoot down aircraft. Our main duties were saving lives, evacuating sick or wounded soldiers, dropping supplies and occasionally evacuating civilians from war zones.”

Dad passed away a victim of the coronavirus pandemic but to me his service in the Far East was a far more crucial and important chapter in his full and wonderful life.