VJ Day

Signing on Behalf of HMG

 Eye witness to the Japanese surrender in Beijing on 10th October 1945 

Article by John Stanfield

I wrote the following account immediately afterwards.

“The ceremony took place on the Dragon Pavement in front of the Hall of Supreme Harmony at the Grand Coronation Palace in the Forbidden City…. the exact place where for the last five hundred years the Emperors of China have come to announce victories. The setting and the day combined to make this event as colourful and awe-inspiring as any in China’s history.

The Grand Coronation Palace contains the Imperial Dragon Throne, and is at the heart of the Forbidden City. The pillars and walls are of deep crimson; the eves and woodwork are painted and decorated with golden dragons. Today, the Double Tenth, the white marble balustrades and terraces were set off by the flags of the Allied nations. The weather was brilliant. Sunshine gleamed off the yellow glazed tiles on the roofs.

The car carrying our small British party approached the Forbidden City through the streets of Beijing through cheering crowds under triumphal arches hung with the flags of the ‘Big Four’ nations: China, Great Britain, the United States and Russia. We drove through packed throngs of excited people with perspiring soldiers clearing a passage for our vehicle. Up to the main fortress gate of the Forbidden City and through the 50 yard tunnel to the square beyond, where we left our car and continued on foot. We walked across and up two flights of steps to the Gate of Supreme Harmony. As we passed through the gate we saw below us the enormous courtyard in front of the Grand Coronation Palace. The square was crowded with more than 100,000 people, filling all the available space – right up to the flights of marble steps and the terraces leading to the Dragon Pavement.

The terraces were decorated with gay bunting, and behind the red pillars of the Palace could be seen the flags of China, Great Britain, the United States and Russia, draping the walls on each side of the entrance hall. The sight was breathtaking, and as we made our way through the lines of soldiers and up the three flights of steps to the Dragon Pavement, a roar of cheering arose and we felt for a moment as if we were the focus of the universe.

At the top of the steps, standing on an Imperial Dragon carpet was a table with the surrender documents.

The Chinese authorities had wisely allowed plenty of time to assemble, and the groups of representatives, each of us wearing an official red silk tab, strolled about and took photographs in the sun. Stately long-gowned officials, Chinese generals in their smart high-collared uniforms, American marine and Air Force officers and the British party – me, the senior official from our embassy, and two junior officers. We were accompanied by civilian spectators of all nations.

A Chinese General escorted me to sign for the British Army. The documents were four concertina-like books bound in yellow silk and made of absorbent paper to take ink brush writing.

All this time, fresh parties of dignitaries were arriving; each heralded by a wave of cheering.  The Senior Officer in charge of Ceremonies then marshalled the official spectators. Foreigners were placed on the left and Chinese on the right, with our backs to the Coronation Palace. A military honour guard lined the sides, space being left in front for the Japanese.

When all was ready, the Master of Ceremonies instructed the civilians to remove their hats, and for us military men to salute as the War Zone Commander, General Sun Lien Chung, came out from the Palace into the sunlight followed by his aides.

One of the aides called for the Japanese delegates to be brought forward. A roar indicated the progress of the Japanese military party as they walked the two hundred yards across the huge courtyard surrounded by Chinese spectators. As they climbed the three flights of steps, the roar became a triumphal shout. Seven long years of subjugation ended by the humbling of these officers, about to surrender their swords on the spot where defeated enemies of China have given-up their symbols of power for the last five hundred years.

Forming a line in front of General Sun, the Japanese came to attention, saluted and filed to the left where they stood rigidly. The general commanding the 47 Japanese divisions in China was then called forward to sign the surrender document. He walked to the table and signed with the brush pen provided. General Sun then signed the documents. The next order was, “You will now surrender your swords”. With their senior general leading, the Japanese officers filed one by one to the table, unhooked their swords and lay them down. Forming up once more they saluted, turned and marched off to the right. General Sun saluted, turned away and walked back into the Grand Coronation Palace. In its dim pillared depth could be seen the huge Dragon Throne. The spectators were then invited to drink a toast to the Allies.

Our leaving was another triumphal procession. Once again the crowds clapped and cheered as we made our way through the vast courts and palaces and moved from the fifteenth back into the twentieth century,

I felt drained of emotion. The scene had been too monumental and colourful for reality. The acres of golden tiles, the deep crimson walls, the marble balustrades and the cheering crowds. Such a scene happens only once in an age, and this surrender was for China the supreme moment of the Japanese defeat.

This must have been the most brilliant and stirring surrender in Asia; perhaps in the whole world. But as communications were bad it was hardly reported outside China. 



The following two months were an anti-climax. I was involved in reclaiming the old British Embassy. The American military presence continued to grow. Foreign diplomats returned, and there was much social activity.

On December 12 I closed the Force 136 office and left Beijing to take up a new assignment as Officer in Charge of Signals in Hong Kong. Then in March 1946, I was shipped home to England, and left the Army. Later in the year I entered Cambridge University to read economics, followed by theology, and a new life in the Methodist Church.  How wonderful to see an end to the fighting after six years of war, and to return to family and home after such a long separation! riddle_stop 2


John Stanfield, now a 94 year old gentleman, lives in South West England.  70 years ago he witnessed the ceremony in Beijing when the Japanese Army surrendered to the Allies, and he signed the surrender document on behalf of the British Army.

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