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Historic Visit To CWGC War Graves In Madagascar

26 August 2016

A Japanese delegation has made a historic first visit to the CWGC Diego Suarez War Cemetery in Madagascar – the final resting place of more than 300 Commonwealth servicemen who died during the Allied assault and occupation of the island during the Second World War.

Among those paying their respects were Japan’s Ambassador to Madagascar, His Excellent Mr Ichiro Ogasawara, Mr Yasutoshi Nishimura, the Special Advisor to the Japanese President, Chief Deputy Secretary General, and the First Secretary Mr Motonobu Ichijo. They were welcomed to the cemetery by the CWGC’s Honorary Supervisor in Madagascar, Alex Totomarovario.

The delegation previously visited a nearby memorial to Japanese sailors who were killed after attacking Allied shipping in the harbour at Diego Suarez in 1942.

Alex said of the visit; “This was the first time such a high profile delegation had visited the CWGC graves at Diego Suarez and I was greatly honoured to show the group around the cemetery. I was able to explain the history of the site and the CWGC approach to caring for the war dead.

“Mr Nishimura, whose visit to Madagascar was deeply personal given that his father-in-law built the Japanese War Memorial in Diego, was deeply impressed by the cemetery and the CWGC’s approach.

He also wanted to lay a wreath at the war cemetery to promote peace and hopes that more Japanese nationals will visit both the memorial sites.”

Following the fall of France in 1940, the French possession of Madagascar, which lay across the Allied supply lines in the Indian Ocean, became strategically important.

In May 1942 the large naval base and harbour of Diego Suarez was seized by Allied forces in Operation 'Ironclad', the first amphibious assault undertaken by Commonwealth forces in the Second World War.

Attempts at a negotiated peace with the Vichy controlled French forces failed and fighting continued until their eventual surrender at the end of October.

After the occupation, about two thirds of the Allied war graves in Madagascar were brought into the cemetery at Diego Suarez. Further burials were brought in after the end of WW2.

The CWGC Diego Suarez War Cemetery now contains 314 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War and one Belgian war grave.