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Paul Madden

British Ambassador to Japan

11th November 2020 Tokyo, Japan

Remembrance Day in Japan

On Sunday I took part in the annual Remembrance Day commemorations at the Commonwealth War Cemetry in Hodagaya, Yokohama. I was conscious that many similar ceremonies in the UK had had to be scaled down this year because of COVID restrictions. So it was good to see that, in Japan at least, a large number of people were able to turn out to attend this moving occasion on a beautiful sunny Autumn day.

The Hodogaya Cemetery is a serenely peaceful setting, amidst the bustle of one of Japan’s largest cities. There are around 2,500 similar Commonwealth War Cemeteries in 150 countries around the world.

Much of the iconography around Remembrance Day comes from the First World War, including the poppies. It was the turn of the Indian Embassy to organise the event this year, and they invited me to read the poem “In Flanders fields” by  John McCrae. It is hard not to be stirred by the simple, but poignant words.

At Hodogaya are the graves of over 1700 servicemen and women, and several hundred more are remembered in cremations and memorials. They are mostly from the Second World War, and subsequent conflicts in Korea and Vietnam. As former allies and adversaries, all now friends, laid our wreaths together, I’m sure we were all thinking of the sacrifice of those individuals who lost their lives in these great global struggles – so many of them so young, as you see from the headstones – and of their grieving families.

I’m always reminded on these occasions of the words of King George V, visiting a War Grave in Flanders in 1922. Struck by what he saw, he was moved to comment that “I have many times asked myself whether there can be more potent advocates of peace upon earth.. than this massed multitude of silent witnesses to the desolation of war.”

This year felt particularly poignant for me. After twelve years of laying wreaths at these occasions on behalf of Britain, as Ambassador and High Commissioner in Japan, Australia and Singapore, this was the last time I would get the chance to do so. In the diverse calendar of an ambassador, these are always events where you most feel the weight of history, alongside a mix of humility in the face of what previous generations suffered, and pride in being part of your nation’s remembrance of them.

About Paul Madden

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017. He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia…

Paul Madden has been the British Ambassador to Japan from January 2017.

He was Additional Director for Asia Pacific at the FCO in 2015.He was British High Commissioner to Australia until February 2015. Prior to this he was British High Commissioner in Singapore from 2007-2011.

A career diplomat, he was previously Managing Director at UK Trade and Investment (2004-2006), responsible for co-ordinating and
implementing international trade development strategies to support
companies across a wide range of business sectors.

As Assistant Director of Information at the Foreign and Commonwealth
Office (2003-2004) he was responsible for public diplomacy policy,
including managing the FCO funding of the BBC World Service, the British
Council and the Chevening Scholarships programme. He led the team
responsible for the award-winning UK pavilion at the Aichi Expo in Japan

He was Deputy High Commissioner in Singapore from 2000-2003 and has
also served in Washington (1996-2000) and Tokyo (1988-92). Between
1992-96 he worked on EU enlargement and Environmental issues at the FCO
in London.

Before joining FCO he worked at the Department of Trade and Industry
(1980-87) on a range of industrial sectors and trade policy, including
two years as a minister’s Private Secretary.

He has an MA in Economic Geography from Cambridge University, an MBA
from Durham University, studied Japanese at London University’s School
of Oriental and African Studies, and is a Fellow of the Royal
Geographical Society. His first book, Raffles: Lessons in Business
Leadership, was published in 2003.

Married to Sarah, with three children, he was born in 1959, in Devon.