|Listening to Voiceless Stories of POWs|
The Commonwealth War Cemetery, Yokohama
――Listening to Voiceless Stories of POWs――
|British Section in early summer|
About 3,500 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) perished in Japan during the Pacific War. Of these, the remains of the Americans and the Dutch were brought back to their home countries after the War, however, the British, Australians, Canadians, Indians, New Zealanders and others of the Commonwealth were interred in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Yokohama.
The site of this cemetery was originally the “Children's Playground” opened by the City of Yokohama in 1929. After the War, half of the land was acquired by the Occupation Forces, without the need for compensation, becoming the Commonwealth War Cemetery. Although the Japanese Government owns the land itself, and even after the signing of the San Francisco Peace Treaty in 1951, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission headquartered in Great Britain has remained responsible for the maintenance of this war cemetery.
|Australian Section in autumn|
The vast 13-hectare site is divided into five sections: British, Australian, Canadian and New Zealander, Indian and Pakistani, and Post-War Section. Each section contains exactly the same neatly arranged gravestones. Each is inscribed with the deceased’s name, unit name, rank, military service number, date of death, age, and epitaph from the POW’s family. In one corner of the British Section, there is the Cremation Memorial. POWs were transported north to Japan by ship. There were deaths recorded shortly after arriving at Moji Port. There was a mass cremation. The ashes of those 335 men are enshrined together: 266 British, 48 Americans, and 21 Dutch. Their names are commemorated on the walls.
Of the approximately 2,000 people buried in the cemetery, about 1,700 fallen as prisoners of war, while the others deceased while stationed in Japan after the War as members of the Occupation Force and victims of the Korean War.
There are four main memorial ceremonies held every year: ANZAC DAY Service on April 25 by Australia and New Zealand, Memorial Day Service in the last week of May for the US Military, Memorial Service held by Japanese citizens on the first Saturday in August, which was started by Takashi Nagase, Tsuyoshi Amemiya, and Kazuaki Saito in 1995, and the Remembrance Day Service by Britain and the Commonwealth on the Sunday closer to November 11.
|Canadian and New Zealander Section on ANZAC Day|
|Indian Section in August|
Since 2014, Yoshiko Tamura and Taeko Sasamoto of the POW Research Network Japan have introduced three stories of POWs in this cemetery on the memorial service in August annually.
The cemetery is always peaceful and in tranquility. Little by little, they picked up some episodes of POWs, just like listening to their voiceless stories: How they were sent to Japan, what their life was like in the camps, why they had to die, and how the family felt after receiving the sad news. They wish these stories help visitors to understand their personal histories. For your interest, here are the ones having been introduced so far in August since 2014.
For the list of the men interred at this cemetery, please see the "List of Deceased POWs". It includes name, unit, rank, date of death, cause of death, and place of death.