East meets West in dockyard history
6:00pm Saturday 19th January 2013 in County News
AS Pembroke Dock gears up for its 200th anniversary in 2014 remarkable connections between the town and the Japanese nation are being re-established.
Nearly 140 years after an armoured corvette for the Japanese navy was built at Pembroke Dock, a senior Japanese diplomat has visited the town and heard the almost forgotten story of the ‘Hiei’.
Jun Yamada, recently appointed deputy director-general for European affairs in the Foreign Office in Tokyo, was shown a model of the vessel, which was launched in June 1877 at the privately owned Shipbuilding and Engineering Works at Jacobs Pill, Pennar.
The model, made by David James of the West Wales Maritime Heritage Society, is on display at the Pembroke Dock Sunderland Trust’s Fleets to Flying Boats Centre in the Royal Dockyard.
Hiei is one of several unique connections between the dockyard town and Japan. Another link is next door to the Fleets to Flying Boats Centre at the Master Shipwright’s House where, during the construction of the corvette, its first captain, Lieutenant Heihachiro Togo, lived.
Twenty-eight years later, Togo defeated the entire Russian armada in one battle and rose to become the most famous admiral in the Imperial Japanese Navy.
The house is now the home of Commander Tony Mason, honorary naval liaison officer.
Mr Yamada said: “This is a remarkable story indeed and I am delighted to bring this to the notice of our embassy in London, as well as our foreign and defence ministries in Tokyo. From this I am sure we will rekindle the very special bonds between us.”
Sunderland trustee Martin Cavaney added: “We see this developing into a special event in 2014. Our town’s unique association with the Japanese navy is something we are very proud of.”