Hiroshima & Nagasaki

The Mayor of Camden Cllr Maryam Eslamdoust lays the first wreath at the Hiroshima cherry tree

Back on the 8th of August 1967, that year’s Mayor of Camden Cllr Millie Miller planted a cherry tree in Tavistock Square in memory of the victims of the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima twenty two years earlier on August 8th 1945. A second bomb was dropped two days later on Nagasaki.

By then Japan had lost the war and surrender could only have been a few days away. There was no pressing military reason to use these monstrous weapons, but they had been under development in the Manhattan Project which began in 1939 but only got into full swing in 1952. The scientists had developed two different types of bomb, a uranium-235 bomb codenamed ‘Little Boy’ and the plutonium based ‘Fat Man’.

Baroness Jenny Jones

The ‘Fat Man’ device, involving an explosion to compact a plutonium sphere to provide the critical mass for an explosion was complex, and it was decided a test was necessary to determine if it would work. This test, the world’s first nuclear explosion, took place on the 16 July 1945 in a remote desert area in New Mexico.

Planning for dropping the two bombs began in serious in November 1943 and was complex. Specially modified aircraft were needed because of the size of the bombs and a special base was built for the missions on a Pacific island. Originally Kyoto had been selected for a target for the first bomb, but the US Secretary of War ruled it out because of its cultural and historic significance and Hiroshima was selected in its place.

Shigeo Kobayashi, Japan Against Nuclear, reads the English translation of today’s speech by the Mayor of Hiroshima at the commemoration there

The Hiroshima bomb was the logical end of years of planning and scientific effort and was needed more to validate that whole process than for any particular military purpose. There was even less reason for the second bomb on Nagasaki given the destruction the first bomb had caused. Over two thirds of Hiroshima’s buildings had been destroyed, almost a third of its population killed immediately and another third injured. More were to die later from radiation.

Nagasaki was not even the intended target for the second bomb; cloud over Kokura saved it from destruction and instead ‘Fat Man’ was dropped on Nagasaki. It was roughly 1.5 times more powerful than the Hiroshima bomb but hills protected parts of the city and the destruction and death toll were lower with an estimated 35,000–40,000 people killed and 60,000 injured.

Rev Gyoro Nagase, Buddhist monk from the Battersea Peace Pagoda

The commemoration takes place every 6th August in Tavistock Square, with Camden’s Mayor taking part, as well as peace activists. It is the largest of several events in London and I now usually attend and have photographed it a number of times.

Hiroshima Bomb victims remembered


My London Diary : London Photos : Hull : River Lea/Lee Valley : London’s Industrial Heritage

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