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japan / australia

YOKOHAMA WAR CEMETERY Located about nine kilometres west of central Yokohama and about 30 kilometres from the centre of Tokyo, the Yokohama War Cemetery at Hodogaya was established in 1945 by an Australian Army War Graves Unit as the Commonwealth War Graves Commission’s only war cemetery in Japan. The Cemetery’s Australian Section has the graves of 277 known and 3 unknown Australians. The majority of the ten RAN, 250 Army, eight RAAF and nine Merchant Navy service personnel in these named graves died in prisoner of war camps in Japan, including the infamous Naoetsu Camp featured in the 2014 film, Unbroken. Among the Merchant Navy sailors was Stewardess L. Elizabeth Gleeson, who died in Japan as an internee having been taken prisoner aboard the merchant vessel the SS Nankin. The Post-War Section also has the graves of a further 57 Australian servicemen, including those evacuated to Japan during the Korean War, or who died while serving with the British Commonwealth Occupation Force in Japan. In the Post-War Section, the grave of Warrant Officer Ray Simpson, VC, DCM tells an unexpected story about the changed course of Australia’s relationship with Japan. After joining the Second AIF in March 1944, the 18-year old Simpson was sent a holding unit for soldiers who were too young to be deployed overseas. On the morning of 5 August 1944, Simpson was part of a detachment sent to reinforce the garrison troops at Cowra

after the escape of several hundred Japanese prisoners-of-war. He subsequently served in Morotai, Tarakan and Rabaul. Demobilised in January 1947, Simpson re-enlisted in 1951 for service in Korea, and while on leave in Japan met and later married Shoko Sakai, a Japanese citizen, in 1953. Less than a year after the Australian Government approved the admission to Australia of some Japanese wives of servicemen and exservicemen, this aspect of this Simpson’s life demonstrates how the Australia-Japan relationship developed from belligerence to engagement. Following service in Malaya from October 1955, Simpson joined the 1st Special Air Service Company in November 1957, and was later selected as one of the first members of the Australian Army Training Team, Vietnam in 1962. He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal during his second tour in Vietnam in 1964, and in his third tour in 1969 was awarded the Victoria Cross. In 1972, Simpson took up an administrative position with the Australian Embassy in Tokyo, where he died on 18 October n 1978. 

GRASSROOTS EXCHANGE PROGRAM: AN INTRODUCTION Based on discussions at the events, measures were then taken to implement a successor programme that would contain the original programme’s spirit, and which would be aimed at the descendants of former POWs. In late February 2019, as an initial step, four participants, including two descendants of former POWs, were invited to visit Japan for a week. This saw the participants take part in a study exchange event hosted by young students of Kure Kosen (National Institute of Technology, Kure College), located in Hiroshima Prefecture. The students undertook a survey of a former Imperial Japanese military facility that was used by Australian forces during the occupation of Japan after the war. The students explained the results of their research to the participants, and then acted as guides in a tour of the facility. In addition, through exchanges with various Japanese citizens’ groups organized by the POW Research Network Japan, and conversations with State Minister for Foreign Affairs Ms Toshiko Abe in Tokyo as well as various site visits such as to the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and a former POW camp site in Naoetu, Niigata Prefecture, the participants learned more about the historical realities of the time. For two of the participants in particular, those descended from former POWs, this programme provided an opportunity to gain a new perspective on the post-war reconciliation between Japan and Australia. Moreover, we have heard that the participants were able to familiarise themselves with and deepen their understanding of Japanese history, culture, and modern society. This new initiative of inviting the descendants of former POWs to Japan has only just begun, however MoFA feels that it will contribute to encouraging “heart-to-heart reconciliation and exchanges” between the peoples in the both countries for the current and future generations. The programme is planned to continue for the following Japanese financial year 2019-2020. MoFA Japan and RSL Australia look forward to active participation by the descendants of former Australian POWs.

MINISTRY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS OF JAPAN THE LAST POST – 2019 ANZAC DAY EDITION  11  

Profile for The Last Post Magazine

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

The Last Post Magazine Anzac Day 2019  

In 2019 TLP editor Greg T Ross visited Japan under the Japan-Australia Grassroots Exchange Programme. To commemorate the visit and the prog...

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