Saturday 25 April, 2009
Here, today, in this small enclave of the Hodogaya Commonwealth War Cemetery in Yokohama, we gather to commemorate those of the Commonwealth who died during the war with Japan and as members of the Jay Force who came to moderate the peace of war’s end.
One we remember is William Brody, 5th Engineer on the NZ – flagged Merchant Navy ship M.V. Hauraki.
Requisitioned by the British War Ministry, the Hauraki was intercepted in the Indian Ocean en route to the Middle East by armed Japanese merchant ships.
The ship’s company of 56 men were mostly New Zealanders. Except for the engineers and the captain, the crew were set down in Singapore and incarcerated for the duration of the war.
The trip to Japan that ensued for the engineers was an example of courage as, with stealth and guile, they dropped overboard essential spare part for the ship’s engines while under the watchful eye of armed guards. They also set about further debilitating the engines by running them low on essential oil.
They were first set to work on docklands at the Mitsubishi shipyard here in Yokohama, but American bombing of Tokyo in March of 1945 meant the POWs were sent by train to Kamaishi steelworks on the north east coast of Honshu.
On the day the second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki, aircraft flew from American and British air craft carriers and attacked various targets along the coast of Honshu.
Kamaishi was shelled by Allied warships. The POW camp lay between the coast and the steel plant. William Brody was severely wounded, dying on 10 August, 1945 at the age of 30, just five days before the war ended.
Today we commemorate him and his fellow New Zealanders who did not make it back home and who rest here in Japanese soil.
But today they lie in friendly soil for our nations have forged a new future together.
In 1999 New Zealand was a member of the force of the willing, the Australian-led INTERFET operation in East Timor. New Zealand and Australia were both given the task of patrolling and protecting the border with West Timor and preventing incursions across the border the mandate of the United Nations. Japan established and staffed a medical facility in the region supporting the New Zealand contingent.
And our joint efforts in the interest of global peace have continued since then with the Royal New Zealand Navy frigates deployed in support of Operation Enduring Freedom in the Gulf receiving refueling assistance from the Japanese Maritime Self Defence Force.
New Zealand and Japan have formed a close defence and security relationship reflecting our shared interest in the stability, growth and development of the Asia-Pacific region, and, above all its freedom.
I have stood on Chunuk Bair and at Lone Pine on ANZAC Day and seen the tears flow down the cheeks of the thousands who each year make the pilgrimage to Gallipoli, the place where our nationhood and the enduring ANZAC bond was forged.
And those tears are shed not just for the New Zealanders, Australians and Commonwealth soldiers who died there, but for all our peoples who have suffered from the unthinkable calamity of war.
They are the tears of humanity, and while they flow we will never forget. And in those tears lies the promise of freedoms our shared future can bring. Let them never be squandered. Let them never be in vain.