New generation delivers message of peace on 75th anniversary of Hiroshima bomb

A new generation has delivered a message of peace and reconciliation on the 75th anniversary of the Hiroshima atomic bomb strike.

It was 8.15am on a clear, sunny day over the Japanese city of 350,000 people on August 6 1945, when the bomb bay doors of the American B-29 warplane Enola Gay opened, dropping its deadly cargo.

A quarter of the residents were incinerated in the resulting blast – its mushroom cloud famously captured in a photograph taken by the plane’s rear gunner Bob Caron.

VJ Bomb 1
VJ Bomb 1

The destruction, and a second nuclear attack on Nagasaki, paved the way to end the Second World War, with the Japanese surrender following on August 15.

Seventy-five years on, at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, Staffordshire, local children have been folding origami peace cranes, to remember the day the world woke up to the atomic bomb.

In a quiet stand of European and Japanese maple trees planted to mark the Anglo-Japanese Grove of Reconciliation, youngsters were hanging cranes from the branches.

At its centre is a stone of reconciliation, presented by the Japanese government, and nearby, the Hiroshima Cairn, topped by a symbolic stone donated by the city, remembering the millions who suffered and died in the war.

Holding up an origami crane, nine-year-old William Saunders said: “We are trying to make these – they turn out to be very, very hard to make.

Hiroshima 75th Anniversary
Hiroshima 75th Anniversary

“They’re paper cranes.

“They represent when the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima.”

He added: “They all get hung together and it represents peace.”

Asked what he had learned in school about Hiroshima, he said: “I know that they were still in war, and then this one day it just drops on them and injured hundreds of people and it was a very sad event.”

Also at the ceremony were sisters Christine Tomkinson and Jenny Carter, who travelled to Alrewas for the event on Thursday, and whose father was a Japanese prisoner of war (POW).

Their father, Sergeant Francis Railey, was in the Royal Marines having joined two days after his 18th birthday in 1937 to escape a life working in Hafodyrynys colliery near Caerphilly, South Wales.

“He hated being underground,” said Mrs Carter.

Francis Railey
Francis Railey

Sgt Railey served principally aboard battlecruiser HMS Repulse, and was aboard when it was sunk by torpedo bombers, with the loss of 508 crew, in December 1941.

He was rescued by HMS Electra, and fought on in Malaya in an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to repel Japanese land forces.

While being evacuated from the area by another ship, he was again sunk by torpedo attack, captured after rescue and became a prisoner of the Japanese in Sumatra.

After the war, he stayed in Plymouth where his unit had been based, married a girl from Weymouth and became a market gardener, the sisters said.

He died in 1986, and has eight grandchildren.

An old leg injury sustained in the sinking of the Repulse never slowed him, said the siblings.

“If you ever had a headache or anything, he would say ‘work it off’,” they recalled.

Jenny Carter and Christine Tomkinson
Jenny Carter and Christine Tomkinson

Mrs Carter, who lives locally, recalled the stories he had told of daily life within the prison camp, now modern-day Indonesia.

“They used to put bamboo under the fingernails and then light the bamboo, as a punishment,” she said.

“They used to wear loincloths and he’d pinch extra rice and stick it in his loincloth, or hide it in the heel of his sandals – that’s how hungry they’d get,” she said.

Once in camp, he sent several “postcards”, writing – in typical British understatement and doubtless censored by his captors: “Being treated quite well.”

Mrs Carter added: “He would love all this today.”

Mrs Tomkinson, a retired careers officer from Stockport, Greater Manchester, said: “He was always a very positive person so he would always look on the positive side of things.

“He was upset by what had gone on but he didn’t hold any grudges, which I always thought was quite amazing considering the things he had gone through.”

She added: “I think we should be thinking about just generally getting on with each other, allowing people to express their feelings without coming to blows.

“I know that might sound very naive but that is how I personally feel about it.”