Scottish survivor of Nagasaki defends use of atom bombs

A SCOTTISH atom bomb survivor and former Japanese prisoner of war yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of Hiroshima by defending the decision to drop the bombs that ended the Second World War.

Alistair Urquhart, aged 90, worked on the "Death Railway" as a prisoner of war in Thailand, survived a torpedo attack on a Japanese "hellship" and the atomic bomb blast at Nagasaki.

For 60 years, he remained silent about the starvation, torture and brutality he endured at the hands of the Japanese army.

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But his moving Second World War memoir, The Forgotten Highlander: My Incredible Story Of Survival During The War In The Far East, has become a UK best-seller since its launch earlier this year.

Dignitaries from 74 countries attended a service in Hiroshima yesterday to mark the 65th anniversary of the attack.

But yesterday the pensioner, from Dundee, said the decision to drop the bombs was the right one. He said: "There had been an order made that in the event of an invasion of the Japanese mainland, all of us prisoners would have been massacred.

"I have no doubt that would have happened. I was at a POW camp 11 miles from Nagasaki when the bomb was dropped.

"I felt its blast and later would see the terrible devastation that it left. But when we were finally freed by the Americans and saw the devastation, it was the best day of our lives. So I have to say that it was the right thing to do."

Urquhart was 19 when he was conscripted to his local regiment, the Gordon Highlanders, and posted to Singapore.

He was captured by the Japanese in the fall of Singapore in 1942 and sent to work as a slave labourer on what became known as the "Death Railway", building the bridge over the River Kwai.

He was tortured by Japanese and Korean guards and saw many other prisoners tortured and murdered. After surviving the railway, he was put on a Japanese prisoner of war ship.

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IT was torpedoed by an American submarine and he was jettisoned into the South China Sea, swimming for his life.

He survived by clinging on to a small raft and was cast adrift in the South China Sea alone for five days before being picked up by a Japanese whaling ship, which turned him back over to the Nippon Army.

He was taken to work in coalmines near Nagasaki and was just 11 miles from the site where America dropped its second atomic bomb on 9 August, the blast "knocking him sideways."

Mr Urquhart, who teaches computer courses and gives inspirational talks to schoolchildren about his wartime experiences, finally returned to Scotland where he believes he - along with other Far East former POWs - were forgotten and left to suffer in silence. Yesterday's memorial service at Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park was attended by a representative from the UK.

Dignitaries from the United States of America and France also attended for the first time.

Concerns that attending the anniversary ceremony would reopen old wounds had kept the U.S. away until this year but U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said President Barack Obama believed "it would be appropriate to recognize this anniversary" by sending an official to the annual memorial.

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