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Photo of John Mackelvie in uniform, 1945.
(Courtesy of The Memory Project/John Mackelvie)
"All you could see was roads, no buildings at all, not a single building."
… Panama area, that was a real experience. Because the [Panama] Canal, after all, is just a piece of water, it’s actually joining lakes and this huge ship goes through and you look down. And I remember looking down onto the wharf at the side and there were people carrying large banana bunches, they were selling bananas to us troops who of course hadn’t seen them for years. So that was a real experience going through the Panama area. We then went across the Pacific and that took another week-and-a-half. The whole trip took three weeks as I remember.
When I was in the [HMS] Black Prince, we went to Japan to the Inland Sea. It’s on the south coast. There’s a very large area of water called the Inland Sea. It’s actually saltwater and the, the Japanese had a naval base called Kure. Because we were an occupying force, we went to Kure and there was always a ship there with troops onboard, usually Marines. So that established our occupation of Japan after the war.
While we were there, we went over to Hiroshima, which wasn’t too far from Kure and that was a most interesting trip, everybody went there to see it because it was the place of the first bomb, the first atom bomb. Well, absolutely flat. All you could see was roads, no buildings at all, not a single building. And while I was there, I sort of rummaged around in the rubble of one of the houses there and I found two little cups, little china cups about maybe inch-and-a-half diameter. I don’t know what they were used for, whether they’re used for drinking or you know, eating or not but one of them had molten glass on it. And the heat from the atom bomb was so intense that it melted glass and the glass had obviously dripped down onto this particular little cup and then it sort of crystallised there again. And there was a second cup very much like it that didn’t have that but anyway, I picked them up and I brought them home. And I have them here with me in my house. So that was Hiroshima, just a tremendous experience. It was eight months after the bomb was dropped and so there wasn’t any radiation there to, to harm you. So you could go and visit. But it was still absolutely flat and there were no people around there at all because there weren’t any houses. Not a single house.
Okay, HMS Bermuda went up to Yokohama, which is the port for Tokyo City. And we stayed there for a while and on the way back, we crawled into Nagasaki. So I’ve been to both of the bombed cities. And the only thing standing there was a bit of the hospital. I’ve got a photo of myself there in front of the hospital. While I was there, I also rummaged around in the rubble, I came across a little cup with this magnificent, I don’t know how you’d describe it, but on the side of it, it’s made of clay, was the portrayal of the Japanese, the pi-shaped gates that you have to temples, pi being the mathematical shape of pi, “P-I.” And this had all the glazing molten on it and that also recrystallised. I have that with me too. So I have artefacts from the two cities that were bombed.
Yeah, I never saw any action, I’m so glad I didn’t, because so many other of the veterans did but I was actually too young for it. On the other hand, I travelled right around the world by the age of 22. I was just adding up my time at sea and it was 66,000 miles roughly that I travelled by sea.
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