To commemorate soldiers who died as prisoners of war in Japan during World War II, about 130 people attended the 16th annual memorial service Saturday at the British Commonwealth War Cemetery in Hodogaya, Kanagawa Prefecture, where 1,873 Allied service members are buried.
“As a citizen of the Commonwealth, I deeply respect the sacrifice of those who died from the Allied forces, in combat or as prisoners of war during the campaigns of 1942 to 1945,” said Capt. Gareth Derrick, defense attache at the British Embassy in Tokyo, during the service.
“This memorial service serves to promote an understanding of those terrible times, to pay our respects to those who are commemorated here, and to help the difficult path of reconciliation,” he said.
Most soldiers commemorated at the cemetery died as POWs. The vast cemetery is divided into several sections by nationality, including British, Dutch, Indian, Pakistani and New Zealander.
Attendees laid out flowers and sang a hymn, while in the background could be heard the chirping of cicadas from the lush surrounding greenery.
The participants, ranging in age from young to old, included diplomats of the related nations, and this year also a relative of a British POW.
Terry Atkinson, 61, who is from Manchester, England, and visited Japan three years ago to find the grave of his uncle, Albert Bailey, returned this year to attend the service, where he gave a brief speech. He is the only one of Bailey’s surviving relatives to come to Hodogaya. “I came here three years ago to find my uncle’s grave, and I came with bitterness in my heart,” said Atkinson. His uncle died at 26.
But when he left, “it was with love and friendship for the people of this great land. I thank you very much for this service that you put on today,” he said.