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Yokohama cemetery

Commonwealth War Graves Commission reveals second world war stories through use of smartphone technology

23 July 2015

The personal stories of Commonwealth servicemen who died during the Second World War and are commemorated in Japan will be revealed at the unveiling of an interactive visitor information panel at the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) Yokohama War Cemetery on 24 July. The panel will be unveiled by CWGC Vice Chairman, Air Chief Marshal Sir Joe French.

The panels at Yokohama are part of a global initiative by the CWGC aimed at helping visitors to the war cemeteries and memorials to better understand the historic events which led to their creation. Visitors can use their phones to scan a code on the panels that navigates to a website revealing the stories of those commemorated. Among the stories revealed at Yokohama is that of Private Halwyn Wilfred Buttsworth.

Halwyn was born in Launceston, Tasmania in Australia. He was a keen sportsman and worked for a bank before joining the army in 1941. In January 1942 he sailed for Malaya - just four months before his baby daughter Anne was born. Halwyn was destined never to see his daughter. He was captured at Singapore and sent to a number of prisoner of war camps before being shipped to Japan in 1944 - arriving at Fukuoka camp in September. He died shortly after on 18 December 1944.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Joe French said: "The Commonwealth War Graves Commission plays a vital role in preserving the memory of the Commonwealth servicemen and women who lost their lives during the two world wars.

"The panels we unveil today help mark their sacrifice but they are also part of a wider initiative to help visitors to this beautiful and moving place, understand the history and the human stories behind the inscriptions on the graves."

"The CWGC would like to encourage more people to visit the cemetery here at Yokohama. In so doing, it is our hope you will learn more about this important chapter of our history but also depart determined to remember those who died."

By August 1945, some 32,000 Allied prisoners were held in camps around Japan. Yokohama War Cemetery was begun in 1945 by the 38th Australian War Graves Unit, and is now the final resting place of prisoners of war who died throughout Japan during the Second World War. It is the only Commonwealth war cemetery in Japan and contains some 1,500 graves.

A plot within the cemetery holds the graves of some 170 Commonwealth service personnel and civilians who died after the Second World War.

Within the cemetery is the Yokohama Cremation Memorial which houses an urn containing the ashes of 335 Commonwealth, American and Dutch servicemen who died as prisoners of war in Japan and whose remains were cremated. Of these, the names of 284 men are known and inscribed on the walls of the Memorial.

Alongside the graves of soldiers from undivided India stands The Yokohama Memorial, which bears the names of 20 of their comrades who died in Japan and whose place of burial is unknown.

For more information, contact: Peter Francis on +44 (0) 1628 507163 or +44 (0) 7766 255884 or by email peter.francis@cwgc.org

Ends.

Notes for editors:

1.The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (www.cwgc.org)
The CWGC maintains the graves of the 1.7 million Commonwealth servicemen and women who died during the two world wars. It also holds and updates an extensive and accessible records archive.

The CWGC operates in over 23,000 locations in 154 countries across all continents except for Antarctica.

14-18: A series of high-profile worldwide events will take place to mark the centenary of the First World War, many of which will take place at Commission sites. The Commission will ensure that these sites are maintained to the highest standard and is installing information panels at over 500 sites to enhance the visitor experience. Smartphone users will also be able to access additional information, including the personal stories of some of those buried at the site.