World War II 75th anniversary: Goulburn's Bye family prepares to remember

Lovers: Allan Bye and Joan Bye met when Allan arrived home in Adelong after the war. Photo: Howard Bye.
Lovers: Allan Bye and Joan Bye met when Allan arrived home in Adelong after the war. Photo: Howard Bye.

Seventy-five years ago, on August 15, 1945, the Second World War was finally over, and VP Day was gazetted.

The day, "Victory in the Pacific Day", commemorates Japan's unconditional surrender as Emperor Hirohito announced Japan's acceptance of the Allies' terms.

The 75th anniversary will mean a lot to so many Australians, in towns and cities right across the country.

The anniversary is especially significant for Howard Bye, whose late father Allan Howard Bye was a WWII veteran and POW who worked on the Thai-Burma Railway.

At the time of VP Day, Australian forces were engaged in campaigns across the Pacific - in New Guinea, Bougainville, New Britain, Borneo, and in the Philippines - and Australian prisoners of the Japanese were spread throughout Asia.

Mr Bye, from Goulburn, NSW, described his father's experiences as a POW after signing the enlistment papers in Adelong, in the NSW Riverina.

Allan Howard Bye in uniform.

Allan Howard Bye in uniform.

"In 1940 he became one of the original members of 2/19th Battalion along with four mates from Adelong and was moved to Ingleburn then Bathurst for training," Mr Bye said.

"Dad was promoted to corporal [almost a couple of years after joining], but when his battalion surrendered, he became a POW.

"Following the surrender, the men were marched to Changi Prison.

"A short time after, dad was transferred to the Great World POW Camp in Singapore which was situated in a fun park like Luna Park.

"[As a prisoner,] dad worked on the Thai-Burma Railway line and at sites stretching from Wampo and Tha Sao in the south to Kinsaiyok in the north.

"Conditions overall were pitiless and the cruel treatment of the prisoners was unforgivable.

"The fittest survivors, including dad, were shipped to Japan from Singapore which took 70 days.

Howard Bye, Edwina Bye and Russell Bye at the Hellfire Pass in Thailand. Photo: Howard Bye.

Howard Bye, Edwina Bye and Russell Bye at the Hellfire Pass in Thailand. Photo: Howard Bye.

"It had been a life threatening trip marked by American submarine attacks, a terrifying typhoon on the China seas, semi-starvation, almost continuous confinement in stifling holds and unpredictable bashings by the Korean guards.

"They were then ferried to Koyagi Island and assigned to ship building duties like working in the docks unprotected against the elements.

"Dad was moved to Nakama where he was tasked to be a miner.

"As history tells us, the Americans dropped two atom bombs on Japan in early August, 1945 and work for POWs ceased on August 15 as the emperor had agreed to an unconditional surrender."

Mr Bye did hear plenty of stories about the war from his father growing up, but didn't really understand.

"A story that stood out to me the most was when he told me about the bombs beings dropped," he said.

Taken in Japan after repatriation from the Japanese: Back (left): Bert Donaldson, Jim Winbank and Bob Beaumont. Front (left): Allan Bye, Les Connell and Frank Donat. Photo: Howard Bye.

Taken in Japan after repatriation from the Japanese: Back (left): Bert Donaldson, Jim Winbank and Bob Beaumont. Front (left): Allan Bye, Les Connell and Frank Donat. Photo: Howard Bye.

"He said everything just went so quiet in the prison camp.

"I undertook a visit to Thailand three years ago to the railway line where he worked and I got a bit of an appreciation of the hardship they actually had to put up with," he said.

Though Allan Howard Bye returned to his home and family in Adelong after the war, he never really recovered mentally.

"As he got older, because he wasn't as active as he was when he was working, the war was on his mind more than ever," he said.

To mark the 75th anniversary, Mr Bye was hoping to travel to Thailand, but due to COVID-19 restrictions, he is unable to.

Most had expected the war against Japan to continue into 1946, but instead, Australians enjoyed what Prime Minister Chifley called "this glorious moment".

We'd love to hear your family's stories of that moment and their contributions to the VP Day fight.

If you've got letters at home, memorabilia, or stories you'd like to tell, we'd love to share them - just fill out this form below and we'll be in touch:

This story One man's World War II journey: Does your family have a VP Day memory? first appeared on Goulburn Post.