Arthur Razzell was convinced the end of the world had come when he visited Nagasaki and Hiroshima shortly after the two Japanese cities were devastated by atomic bombs dropped in the closing stages of World War II.
The Japanese had surrendered and Arthur was a teenager on leave from the Navy, when he travelled around in jeeps loaned by the Americans, to see what the places were like.
“We had no idea at that time about radiation and we went across where the bombs fell,” said Arthur, now aged 89, who lives in Buxted.
“Nagasaki and Hiroshima convinced me the end of the world had come and at that time I lost my faith,” he said.
The memories were undimmed when Arthur came to Uckfield last night to help the town’s mayor, Cllr Louise Eastwood, light a beacon at the Victoria Pleasure Ground to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan Day.
Arthur said that when the Japanese surrendered 70 years ago he was in Tokoyo Bay on the staff of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser, commander of the Pacific fleet. He was one of 30 officers dealing with top secret signals coming in.
Some of those signals remain top secret today and Arthur said he received periodic reminders of that.
But what he can say is that he remembers a lot of concern at the time to make sure it was the British, and not the Americans, who took the surrender in Hong Kong and Singapore.
Arthur was 17 when he joined up and went into the Navy. He went straight to sea without any training.
He was part of a convoy to Malta and also involved in an attack on the German battleship Tirpitz before going out to the Pacific.
He travelled on the HMS Lothian, which he describes as the “Ship of Shame” with a crew of 700 when it was designed to take 400. He recently told the story of the ship and a mutiny on board to Dan Snow on The One Show.
Arthur was a midshipman on HMS Lothian but went on to be promoted to sub lieutenant on the staff of Admiral Sir Bruce Fraser.
After the war still only 19, he came back to England and worked on the minesweeper HMS Fly operating out of Harwich in the North Sea.
After being demobbed Arthur went into teaching and remembers opening a new school for London County Council on the Abbeywood Estate in South London before going into the academic world.
He worked for London University on child growth and development and then moved to Lancaster University where he conducted research in education development and middle schools.
Eventually he moved down to Sussex as senior advisor in education for East Sussex County Council.
Uckfield Mayor Cllr Eastwood said she felt very honoured to be involved in the VJ Day 70th anniversary event and to be with Mr Razzell at the lighting of the beacon last night.
Also at the Victoria Ground ceremony was Norman Mayers, Royal British Legion branch secretary.
About 70 people watched the beacon lighting ceremony and were entertained with music from the 1940s performed by the Uckfield Performance Ensemble.
Two minutes silence
Tonight there will be two minutes silence and the union flag will be raised outside Uckfield Civic Centre.
Norman Mayers has called for everyone in town to join the silence to pay tribute to all those who served in the UK Armed Forces in the Far East.
After that there will be a Victory over Japan music night at the Civic Centre with the Swingshift Big Band.