This photo taken on the streets of Sydney, VP Day 15 August 1945 illustrates the emotion felt at the announcement of the end of six years of war. Trish Lewis, one of the ladies standing front and centre in the photo, was there that day and has graciously shared her story with us.
We had the pleasure of interviewing Trish Lewis in 2020 to hear more about the scenes witnessed on August 15th, 1945. Read the full interview and be immersed in the feelings of Victory in the Pacific Day below.
“The expression on everybody’s face shows the emotion and joy of the day…”
Trish, taking us back 75 years, recounts the incredible story of the end of the Second World War. “I can’t remember how we knew the war had ended, all I remember is running out the door and grabbing my coat because it was chilly out”. Trish, who had left school early to look for work in a protected industry after the outbreak of war, found herself outside of her co-op in Sydney watching the busses go past as the country celebrated the end of the Second World War.
“We rushed outside, people were waving and cheering – shouting from all around…” recounts Trish, who goes on to describe how the people celebrated, overjoyed in the streets, emotion flowing as the news spread.
Overcome with the celebrations and joy of the news, the celebrations went on for ages, “I can’t remember when it all ended, I must have gone back to work afterwards, in fear of getting fired.” Trish, then working in the mail room, tries to put into words the emotion felt by all those that struggled through 6 long years of war, calling to mind something that resonated through the crowd of the time - “The boys would be coming back home,”.
The jubilation of VP day in 1945 was in stark contrast to what had transpired throughout the country prior to that day. Trish narrates the world around her as they walked through the streets in celebration, “The banks had sand bags piled high, like an air raid shelter, not that it would have helped if we did get bombed. Bondi beach was covered in barbed wire, in anticipation of the Japanese invading via the ocean.” These unrecognisable images of the city is what all Australians lived through – as Trish describes, it was only a few years after the war ended that things started getting back to the “pre-war normal”.
Unknown at the time, Trish’s future husband Phil was witnessing VP day from a very different perspective.
During the 60th anniversary of VP day Phil Lewis, now married to Trish, happened across a commemorative calendar with images from VP day. On the front cover was his wife, Trish and inside was an image of the Japanese surrender.
This photo, from that original calendar, has been marked with an x to demonstrate where Phil Lewis and his best mate Sid Meani stood and watched as their “Red Robbie” Major General Horace Robertson, General Officer Commanding, 6th Division, took the sword from Lieutenant General Hatazo Adachi, Commander of the Japanese 18th Army in New Guinea as the unconditional surrender of the Japanese forces. This momentous occasion marked the end of the conflict in the Pacific and drawing to a close the Second World War.
Courtesy of Sid Meani’s daughter, Regina Meani we have this incredible image of what happened on that fateful day in 1945.
Regina tells of the two second world war veterans - Sergeant Sidney Patrick Meani and Corporal Philip John Lewis, “They became best mates in the army, beginning a friendship that lasted their entire lives, no matter how long or how far they were away from each other.” As a result of this friendship, formed in the midst of a world war that affected millions, two families have been united for more than 75 years.
Trish, 75 years later, still looks at the brighter side of what happened. “It was almost exciting in a way. Meeting all new people from different countries”. Talking to the US forces and other nations that were stationed in Australia during the war. “I’m glad I was young – if I was older I may have seen it through different eyes.” Trish was only 10 years old when the war broke out, and it was all she knew in her formative years. Talking to her today, the fortitude that was demonstrated 3 generations ago is still present in her voice and the positive spirit in which she recounts these grave days is evident. She is only too happy to have had 48 years of a wonderful marriage and a grandson to pass a legacy down to, medals and all.
The front page of the calendar released back in 2005 – first bringing together two images of the same story told from different sides of the war.
Trish Lewis' story, and that of her family, are truly remarkable. Her then future husband and she were both there on VP day in 1945, but looking at it from very different perspectives.
Military Shop would like to thank both Trish Lewis for sharing her story and Regina Meani for contacting and connecting us to such an incredible account of VP day in 1945.
We call on all Australians to capture these stories of valour, bravery, connection and family. We honour the 77th Anniversary of Victory in the Pacific Day in 2022. Lest we forget.