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HMS Albion proves big in Japan on landmark visit to Tokyo

HMS Albion proves big in Japan on landmark visit to Tokyo
7 August 2018
A Commando salutes and a Japanese veteran bows in reverence at one of the most hallowed British sites in the land of the Rising Sun.

Sailors, Royal Marines and Army commandos from HMS Albion paid their respects at Yokohama Cemetery in Hodogaya, Tokyo, the last resting place of 1,555 Commonwealth servicemen who died in Japanese prison camps or while serving in the country as part of the occupying forces after 1945.

Among the dead, 113 Royal Navy and 65 merchant seamen, victims of the 1941-45 struggle for control of the Pacific.

As they have done in every major port of call where there’s a significant burial ground for the nation’s war dead – most recently Busan in Korea – the ship’s company of Britain’s flagship have visited en masse to pay their respects and lay a wreath, assuring their forebears that past sacrifices are not forgotten by today’s generation.

“It was a great privilege for HMS Albion to represent the United Kingdom in Hodogaya as part of the Commonwealth War Graves Prisoner of War Memorial Service, honouring and remembering those that gave their tomorrow, such that we may have our today,” said the ship’s Chaplain Edward Wills.

We enjoyed a spectacular weekend open to visitors in Tokyo – over 6000 members of the public turned up and supported the event, sharing experiences and reinforcing the friendship between our two great nations

Captain Tim Neild, HMS Albion’s Commanding Officer

The Devonport-based assault ship has begun the second half of her Far East deployment after a month’s maintenance in the US Seventh Fleet’s base just south of Tokyo.

Once the work was complete, the ship sailed the short distance to Tokyo for a high-profile visit to Japan’s capital; the 20,000-tonne assault ship is the largest RN vessel to call on the country in a quarter of a century – and one of three British warships dispatched to the Far East this year as the UK looks to renew ties with the Asia-Pacific region in a post-Brexit world.

Japan, on the evidence of Albion’s visit, is certainly “up for it”. Despite language barriers and the building work dominating Harumi Pier – the surrounding area will be the home of the athletes’ village for the 2020 Olympics – an open weekend was heavily subscribed, with long queues along the jetty in 30-degree heat.

“We enjoyed a spectacular weekend open to visitors in Tokyo – over 6000 members of the public turned up and supported the event, sharing experiences and reinforcing the friendship between our two great nations,” said Captain Tim Neild, the flagship’s Commanding Officer.

“Our visit here is a testament to the global reach of the navy, a very global Britain and of course is aimed at building at our bonds with Japan.”

The ship also hosted UK industry as part of the Great Britain campaign to promote the nation’s wares around the globe.

The ship is now back at sea and will soon begin the long journey back to the UK, a four-month epic which will be punctuated by numerous exercises with our allies, chiefly Saif Sareea III in Oman in October – one of Britain’s biggest exercises in the Middle East this century.

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