Remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki

On the 6th of August 1945, at 8:16am (Japan time), an American B-29 bomber let loose ‘Little Boy.’ The first atomic bomb to be used in warfare, Little Boy descended upon the Japanese city of Hiroshima and detonated with around thirteen kilotons of force. This is the equivalent of 13,000 tonnes of TNT. In an instant, tens of thousands of people were killed as a direct result of the blast. Many more would succumb to radiation sickness within the year.

As we know the attack on Hiroshima was followed, three days later on August 9th in the early hours of the morning, by a second attack: this time upon the city of Nagasaki. ‘Fat Man’ killed at least 40,000 people, a figure which would also climb as the year wore on.

Hiroshima after the bomb drops, August 1945. Photograph courtesy of the Imperial War Museums website, UK. © IWM (Q (HS) 833)

Cover of Sadako and the thousand paper cranes

I was lucky enough to visit Japan with some friends in 2016. We spent a few days in Hiroshima. We were eager and curious to visit the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum and see the flamboyant chains of 1000 paper cranes displayed in honour of Sadako Sasaki, sent in from around the world. Sadako Sasaki was a young Japanese girl living in Hiroshima at the time of the bombings, who died a few years later from consequential leukaemia. (Read more about Sadako Sasaki’s poignant story)

Yet for me the most moving exhibition of the Hiroshima Peace Memorial was seeing the Atomic (Genbaku) Dome up close, so perfectly preserved in all its horror. Knowing what occurred there, and seeing the once beautiful structure in ruins serves as a powerful testament to the destructive power that humans are capable of. As our trip was in the middle of the Japanese winter, it soon began to snow. The snow fell into the exposed insides of the Genbaku Dome and the atmosphere was sad and eerie. If you head for Japan, make Hiroshima one of your stops. It is well worth a visit.

One Thousand Paper Cranes

The paper crane is probably the most recognisable piece of origami across the world. For something so exquisite, it is really not that difficult to make. Here is a video showing how to fold an origami crane.

Who knows, perhaps you (with some help, hopefully) might fold a thousand paper cranes in honour of Sadako Sasaki to send to the Children’s Peace Monument in Japan, like students from Wairarapa College did earlier this year.

Books in our Collection


Research the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki through Christchurch City Libraries’ collection of reference eResources. You may need to log in with your library card and PIN/password. Here are just a few ideas to start:

I found a fantastically informative article on World History in Context. What a great resource for a student writing a speech or an essay, or for anyone interested in the issues and the context:

Browse through the rest of our online encyclopedias, dictionaries and general resources.

Digital Images and Video Footage

The following image is from our local Christchurch resource Kete Christchurch. It is a memorial plaque to the victims of the atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima & Nagasaki by the Untied States, at the end of World War II. Inscriptions are in Japanese, Māori and English. The plaque can be found on the riverbank reserve, Cambridge Terrace, between Cashel and Hereford Streets.

Atomic Bomb Memorial plaque Cambridge Terrace
Atomic Bomb Memorial plaque Cambridge Terrace by D M Robertson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 New Zealand License

Here is archival footage taken from the air, showing the Hiroshima bombing in action

And here is footage surveying damage from the aftermath of the bombing

Find more educational film resources on our eResource Access Video, including this two part BBC documentary on the Hiroshima disaster

Web Resources

Foundation stone laid for a memorial on Anzac Day

After the ‘Great War’ ended, there were many competing ideas for a permanent war memorial in Christchurch. Options discussed were varied and included a museum, a monument, a new tram shelter in Cathedral Square or a hospital ward. Vigorous debate around the suitability of the options often played out in The Press in letters to the Editor.

One very popular suggestion that came to fruition was initially offered by Lilian May Wyn Irwin in a letter to the Editor of the Press on 24 July 1919. This was to retain the arches that were created for the Peace celebrations held the previous week and combine these with a memorial bridge at the site of the Cashel Street Bridge. This was an appropriate location as all Canterbury soldiers would have crossed this bridge as they were coming and going from the King Edward Barracks.

A War Memorial Committee was created and after much campaigning and fundraising, the foundation stone for the Bridge of Remembrance was laid on Anzac day in 1923.The days’ proceedings followed a formal order of ceremony with the Governor General Viscount Jellicoe laying the foundation stone and addressing the crowd.

The Bridge of Remembrance took just over one and a half years to complete, officially opening on Armistice Day, 11 November 1924, and is the only memorial arch on a bridge in New Zealand.

Lord Jellicoe addresses those in attendance, foundation stone ceremony, Bridge of Remembrance
[25 Apr. 1923] CCL PhotoCD 15, IMG0014

Upcoming First World War exhibitions

Halswell Heroes Exhibition Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre

9 April to 6 May
Staff from Te Hāpua: Halswell Centre, Upper Riccarton, and Spreydon libraries share their research from the war stories
of men who enlisted from the Halswell area. Ready either to live or die valiantly, these are the stories not only of the men who died during the war, but those that came
home to live, their stories just as valiant as the men who never made it home.

Sumner Boys Exhibition Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre

25 April to 25 May
A collaborative display of research on the war stories of men who enlisted from the Sumner area. Stories and photos are included of soldiers on the roll of honour located on the
wall outside Matuku Takotako: Sumner Centre.

More about the Bridge of Remembrance

80 years old : Citizens’ War Memorial (Cathedral Square)

The Citizens’ War Memorial is still there, hidden behind the cordon.

Citizens' War Memorial
Citizen’s War Memorial. 2007. Flickr File reference CCL-2013-01-15-DSC05887

The Citizens’ War Memorial has stood outside the  Christchurch Anglican Cathedral for eighty years. She survived the earthquakes of 2010/2011 undamaged.

On 9 June 1937 the statue was unveiled by Colonel S.C.P. Nicholls, after a service by Anglican Archbishop Julius.

Originally modelled in clay by local artist William Trethewey, the moulds for the statue were sent to England to be cast in bronze by A.B Burton.

There are six figures in the statue.

Seated with outstretched arms is a figure representing the Mothers of the Empire in an attitude of grief for her lost sons.

St George, in armour, is on the right, facing the Cathedral. He represents valour and protection. On the other side is Youth, holding a torch.

Above St George is Peace, who holds an olive Branch and a dove. Next to her is Justice, who is blindfolded and carries a set of scales, a symbol of balance.

The Angel at the top (my Dad’s favourite) is breaking a sword. She was to be called Victory, but it was decided not to name her.

Peek through the fence surrounding Christchurch Cathedral at this wonderful statue. It’s still there amongst the weeds…

Further information

The Bridge of Remembrance to reopen

Cashel Street Bridge Of Remembrance From East
Cashel Street Bridge Of Remembrance From East, Kete Christchurch

It’s been a bit of a wait, but – fingers crossed ! – soon we will be able to stand on the Bridge of Remembrance again.  Of course, the surrounds don’t quite look like the photo above anymore. The repairs, painstakingly carried out by SCIRT, to the Bridge and Arch were completed in September 2015, but access wasn’t restored as landscaping work as part of the Te Papa Ōtākāro/ Avon River Precinct project has been carried out on the Bridge and the Park of Remembrance.

Coat of arms relief, Bridge of remembrance
Bridge of Remembrance – 8 April 2007 #DSCN2235 (Cecil) / CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

“Changes include removing the walls at the western end of the Bridge and the construction of a grand staircase, a new ramp creating a processional connection to the Nicholas Statue, and paving which links with the river promenade and in-ground lighting to highlight the Triumphal Arch,” Ms Wagner, the Associate Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister, the Associate Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Minister said late last year.

The repair work to the Bridge included replacing the original 4 metre piles with 27 metre ones, and reinforcing the historic arch with an 8.2 tonne beam. The work means that the arch, built from rock quarried in Tasmania, will rock rather than twist in any future earthquakes.

It is expected to be open again by ANZAC Day, 25 April 2016.

Learn more


Memorial Entrance Gates, Lancaster Park

Lancaster Park was opened with an Athletics meeting on 15 October 1881, the land for the ground having been bought by The Canterbury Cricket and Athletics Sports Club Ltd from Benjamin Lancaster. For the next 30-plus years much hard work went into developing facilities for the different sporting codes –  athletics, cricket, cycling, rugby football, tennis, even swimming and horse-racing.

Creator unknown :Photograph of Lancaster Park war memorial, Christchurch. Ref: 1/1-011707-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.
Creator unknown :Photograph of Lancaster Park war memorial, Christchurch. Ref: 1/1-011707-G. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Thanks to the wonders of modern digitisation projects, we can read an account from The Star of 29 July 1881 of how the grounds came to be purchased, and the work done to date.

But with World War I, all sport on the grounds stopped, and despite efforts to raise money to cover costs (including growing potatoes!), Lancaster park was £8,000 in debt and facing bankruptcy by the War’s end.  The Canterbury Commercial Travellers and Warehousemen’s Association came to the rescue – making huge efforts to pay off the debt, and secure the grounds in perpetuity for the athletes of Canterbury.  Their only request was that part of the money raised be used for the Memorial Gates to commemorate the sportsmen who had died in the War.

The name Lancaster Park was changed to Victory Park with the Victory Park Act of 1919, and  the official opening was held on the 27th March 1920. Architectural firm of J S and M J Guthrie designed the Memorial gates, and they were built by G L Bull in 1924

Between 1924 and 2011 many were the Cantabrians who walked through the gates to watch the cricket, see a concert, sit on the embankment …

Who knows when we will next get the chance?

File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0076
Some of the 13,000 spectators leaving Lancaster Park after the second test match between New South Wales and New Zealand, 1 Sept. 1923 [1 Sept. 1923] File Reference CCL PhotoCD 8, IMG0076

More about Lancaster Park

Remembering ANZAC: WORD Christchurch

Book cover of ANZACPhotographer Laurence Aberhart‘s latest work is ANZAC, a collection of 70 photographs of NZ and Australian war memorials. Laurence,  Jock Phillips (who wrote the introduction to ANZAC) and Christchurch Art Gallery director Jenny Harper discussed the evolving relationship between the community and its war memorials, the changing attitudes to the memorials between the First and Second World Wars and individual monuments and sculptors as part of the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival. The relationship between the community and its memorials was a constant theme of the discussion and in a broader way, Laurence’s book. Jock said they “made claims to be timeless monuments…[but] the way they are treated and meanings they have change dramatically over time.” When they were erected there was an “intense relationship between the community and the memorial”, but over time they fell into disrepair as communities developed and moved around them.  Laurence said that the disappearance of some memorials showed that “nothing is permanent. It can all go in an instant.” Jock explained that all local memorials to World War One were community funded and there was a tension between wanting to create something meaningful and sombre and wanting to create something useful in memory of the fallen. After World War Two, the government offered a subsidy for memorials that also served a practical purpose, hence the proliferation of War Memorial community halls, swimming pools and play grounds.

Jock Phillips and Jenny Harper admire a Laurence Aberhart photograph.
Jock Phillips and Jenny Harper admire a Laurence Aberhart photograph.

Laurence illustrated the session with beautiful photographs from ANZAC illustrating some of the more remarkable war memorials including:

  • A solitary solider standing guard over the now vanished hamlet of Rongahere.
  • The Mercer solider standing atop a turret of a 1860’s Land Wars gun ship.
  • Robert Hosie’s lone soldier standing on Otago Peninsula looking out on the Pacific.
  • Christchurch sculptor William Trethewey’s Kaiapoi war memorial is considered one of the best, and attendees were encouraged to visit it. Trethewey, one of the few New Zealand memorial scupltors, also designed the Cenotaph in Cathedral Square and the Captain Cook statue in Victoria Square.

The session closed with a quote that appears on several war memorials:

“From little towns in a far land we came, To save our honour and a world aflame. By little towns in a far land we sleep, And trust the world we won for you to keep.” Rudyard Kipling

Laurence Aberhart and Jock Phillips
Laurence Aberhart and Jock Phillips
ANZAC Day - Heathcote War Memorial [190-?] Christchurch City Libraries, CCL Gimblett Collection, Gimblett-0018
Anzac Day – Heathcote War Memorial  Gimblett-0018