More than 100 people attended an event in Yokohama on Saturday to pay tribute to soldiers from the British Commonwealth and other Allied nations who were taken prisoner during World War II and who later died here.

The annual memorial service took place at the Commonwealth war cemetery in Hodogaya where participants paid their respects to the 1,873 POWs and stressed the importance of peace as this year marks the 70th anniversary of World War II’s end.

“Today’s service not only commemorates the war dead of previous generations but reminds us of the crucial importance of peace, and respect for human dignity in our contemporary international relations,” said Capt. Willem Vermeule, defense attache at the Dutch Embassy in Tokyo who represented the Allied nations.

The cemetery is divided into sections in which the dead of several nations — Britain, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, India and Pakistan — are laid to rest.

Amid scorching August heat, attendees sang hymns and listened to speeches by embassy representatives.

Officials from the embassies of Britain, Canada, the Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand attended the ceremony.

Despite the hot weather, the service is held on the first Saturday of August every year as a measure of respect for the dead POWs who were forced to work in places such as mines and railways under extreme conditions.

The annual event began in 1995, the 50th anniversary of the war’s end. It has been organized by a committee consisting of between eight to 10 people, including pastors and teachers.

Takao Okutsu, head of the committee, told attendees that the event started because Tokyo must apologize to the POWs for “crimes Japan committed during the war.”

“By so doing, we also wanted to seek forgiveness and then to lay the foundation for true peace and reconciliation,” he said.

Although three of the original founders of the service were not present, as two had passed away and another was ill, Okutsu vowed that the committee would keep the annual tradition going far into the future.

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