[Oil on canvas on board
45.4 x 60.8 cm, AWM ART22923]
[NAA A1200, L26035]
Victory (8 May 1945/15 August 1945)
Fellow citizens, the war is over.
The Japanese Government has accepted the terms of surrender imposed by the Allied Nations and hostilities will now cease. The reply by the Japanese Government to the note sent by Britain, the United States, the USSR and China, has been received and accepted by the Allied Nations.
At this moment let us offer thanks to God.
Let us remember those whose lives were given that we may enjoy this glorious moment and may look forward to a peace which they have won for us.
Prime Minister Ben Chifley announcing the end of the war against Japan, 15 August 1945. [V-P Announcement: Segment No. 179490 in Prime Ministers of Australia: A Compilation of Speeches and Interviews. Screensound Australia, National Screen and Sound Collection, Screensound Title No: 214438]
By the beginning of 1945 Australians had been at war for over five years. Now they believed that the Allies would be victorious and that both the war in Europe and the war with Japan would end. In Europe, the Germans surrendered on 7 May, just a week after the death of Adolf Hitler. Australian prisoners of war in European prison camps were liberated and Australian sailors and aircrew began returning home.
Three months later, devastated by Allied bombing and the threat of invasion, Japan surrendered. On 6 and 9 August, American bombers had dropped atomic bombs on two Japanese cities, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, respectively. The Japanese ceased fighting a week later on 15 August 1945 and on 2 September 1945 formally surrendered to the Allies in a ceremony on the deck of the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Other surrenders of Japanese armies in the field took place across Asia and the Pacific. Thousands of servicemen and women now began returning home and surviving prisoners of war were released and repatriated.
Almost one million Australians served in World War II: about 40,000 of them had died and many thousands more were wounded or injured in the course of their military service. With the war's end hundreds of thousands of servicemen and women had to adjust to life as civilians. The women who had played such a vital role during wartime were now expected to return to their homes to become wives and mothers again. For many Australians, the years ahead would be challenging.
Death on VE Day
Private Lawrence Saywell died on 8 May 1945, the last Australian to die in the war in Europe. Captured in Crete in 1941, he escaped from a prisoner of war camp in Bohemia in January 1945 and joined a Czech resistance group. Saywell fought with the partisans against the Germans for four months but on the day the war ended, he was shot and badly wounded by a retreating German soldier near the village of Miretin (now in the Czech republic). He died of his wounds. Saywell was awarded the Czech Military Cross, which is now in the Australian War Memorial collection.