Hiroshima military documents in Derbyshire sale

Moving relics and rare British military documents from Japan’s atomic bomb blast at Hiroshima have emerged, acting as a timely reminder of the horrors of war.

One of only 92 original official copies of a military report compiled by a British team in 1945, it contains four official aerial photos of the bombsite taken by the US Airforce. The views were captured so soon after detonation fires are seen blazing on the ground.

There is also a damage map, over-printed on an aerial photograph. Another page, entitled ‘Details of Damage’, lists numerous key infrastructures in the city – all with the word ‘Destroyed’ next to them. These include a large industrial complex, Hiroshima main station, telephone exchange, power station, electricity sub-station and barracks.

The impact of the blast is also brought home by a Sake bottle warped by the heat of the blast with dirt melted into the glaze. A fragment of window glass, again melted by the heat of the explosion with window frame nails embedded in it, is also in the poignant collection.

It is thought that the items were acquired by a British scientist who was sent to Hiroshima to study the aftermath of the explosion. They will be offered by Hansons Auctioneers in January next year with a guide price of £2,000-£3,000.

The seller, from Herefordshire, said: “I was given the collection by a close friend who had it for several years. I believe he purchased it from a collector of historical military items.

“I was told that in 1945 a government scientist, unfortunately name unknown, visited Hiroshima as part of a UK mission to record the effects of the ‘Little Boy’ Atomic Bomb on the city. The reports and photographs must have been given to him as part of his work at the time. However, the Sake bottle and melted glass were probably picked up as curiosities.

“In later years, after the Second World War, the scientist worked at a British university as a professor. I am told he gave the items to an interested student.

“I know similar melted relics have surfaced before – macabre wartime souvenirs picked up by soldiers visiting the city. Nevertheless, they tend to be rare outside museum collections. However, the official government photos, reports and maps appear to be items unique to the marketplace. In all my searches, I have never come across other examples. If any do exist, they are almost certainly in official archives and not in private hands.

“The atomic attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki were pivotal moments in world history and utterly tragic and horrific. The scale of human suffering was terrible. I hope the collection will be viewed and appreciated for the events it represents, and that it will remind people of the horrors of war.

“Ideally, a museum or public collection may wish to purchase it, or a passionate militaria collector. I am selling now as it does not feel right to keep such important historical items locked away in a box unseen.”

Charles Hanson, owner of Hansons Auctioneers, said: “As we look towards Remembrance Sunday, with conflicts raging around the world – and, horrifically, threats of nuclear war – I hope this rare and sensitive group of objects will provide a timely reminder of the loss of life and devastation caused by these ferocious weapons.

“It is important to learn lessons from the past, and to remember the millions of people – military or civilian – who have lost their lives in war.  Like our vendor, Hansons hopes a museum may acquire these items for public view.”

On August 6, 1945, during the Second World War, the United States detonated an atomic bomb over the Japanese city of Hiroshima, followed by another on August 9 at Nagasaki. The Allies produced two types of atomic bombs – ‘Fat Man’, a plutonium implosion-type nuclear weapon, and ‘Little Boy’, an enriched uranium gun-type fission weapon.

Over the next two to four months, the effects of the atomic blasts killed between 90,000 and 146,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000 and 80,000 people in Nagasaki.  Roughly half occurred on the first day. For months afterwards, many people continued to die from the effects of burns, radiation sickness, and injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. Though Hiroshima had a sizable military garrison, most of the dead were civilians.

Japan surrendered to the Allies on August 15, 1945. Scholars have studied the effects of the bombings and there is much debate concerning the ethical and legal justification for them. Supporters believe they were necessary to bring a swift end to the war. Others have highlighted the moral and ethical implications of using nuclear weapons and the subsequent deaths caused to civilians.