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Children make origami cranes to mark first atom bomb drop
One of the most momentous and destructive episodes in modern history has been commemorated at the national centre for Remembrance in Staffordshire. The event, held at the National Memorial Arboretum in Alrewas, marked the 75th anniversary of the dropping of the first atomic bomb, which decimated the Japanese city of Hiroshima on 6 August 1945. Local schoolchildren from Alrewas were invited to make traditional origami Japanese peace cranes which were then hung from the branches of Maple trees at the Arboretum's Anglo-Japanese Grove of Reconciliation almost a decade ago. The five British and five Japanese maples were previously planted by UK and Japanese veterans who fought in the Burma campaign during World War 2 but subsequently became friends.
Children hang their finished origami cranes alongside paper carp
The detonation of the atomic bomb over Hiroshima reduced five square miles of the city centre to ashes and caused the deaths of 118,000 people within the first four days following the blast. Thousands more inhabitants subsequently died as a result of radiation poisoning. But, despite the massive destruction and huge loss of life, it wasn't until America dropped a second bomb several days later, this time on the city of Nagasaki, that the Japanese government accepted unconditional surrender and led to the end of the war. August 15 was later declared Victory over Japan, or VJ Day. The 75th anniversary of VJ Day will also be marked at the National Memorial Arboretum, when HRH Prince Charles leads a national commemorative event on August 15 which will be broadcast live on BBC1.
Sisters Jenny (left) and Christine either side of the Hiroshima Cairn at the National Memorial Arboretum
The children who took part in making the cranes were all Alrewas Ambassadors, a local community group which was formed four years ago to coincide with the annual Alrewas Show. The group's founder, Mandy Brassington, said: "We were invited to get involved with the origami cranes because we have really good links with the Arboretum. Normally, our ambassadors continue for one year, but because the Alrewas Show was cancelled due to coronavirus, they are doing another year." Special guests at the Hiroshima 75th anniversary event were the daughters of Royal Marine, Sergeant Francis Railey, who was a Prisoner of War of the Japanese for three years. He was captured when the ship he was on was sunk by Japanese torpedo off Sumatra in 1942. Daughters Christine and Jenny said their father, who was injured in the sinking, spoke little of his time as a PoW. But they added: "He did say that if the Americans hadn't dropped the bombs he, and all the other prisoners, wouldn't have got out. They would all have died. We were happy to be invited to attend today and feel privileged to be here."
One of the Alrewas Ambassadors making paper cranes
The managing director of the National Memorial Arboretum, Philippa Rawlinson, said: "I think today has been a really lovely event which evokes the spirit of peace and friendship for the future, which was intended when the Hiroshima peace garden was planted in 2001. And it is wonderful having the children here today as they are passing that spirit of peace on." As well as the maple trees, and a neighbouring grove of Japanese cherry trees planted by British and Japanese schoolchildren, the garden also features the Hiroshima Cairn. This memorial is topped by a stone which was donated by the people of Hiroshima from the ruins of their city. Paper cranes were chosen to decorate the trees as they are a universal symbol of peace and are often found at Japanese war memorials.