A FAMILY travelled over 6,000 miles from Japan to Angle to remember their ancestor, who lost his life at the end of the First World War.

Yoshiko Nakamura, 72, the granddaughter of Japanese Naval officer Lieutenant Colonel Shintaro Yamamoto, came with her daughter, Saya Tsuzuki, to see the unveiling of a memorial to Japanese sailors who died aboard the merchant vessel, the Hirano Maru.

Speaking through a translator, Mrs Nakamura said: “I’m very thankful, I feel like I’m dreaming.

“I found out through the newspaper in Japan that the memorial was going to be placed here.

“I also have a family album that has my grandfather’s photograph - on the back, it explains how he was killed.

“It said he left on October 3, 1918, and the next day his ship, the Hirano Maru, was torpedoed by a German U-boat and he was killed.

“I didn’t know at the time where it was, but in the newspaper, it said that some of the victims were buried in this church. I know this is the place.

“The old photographs of this graveyard featured an old memorial which has disappeared now, but the family album kept that photograph as well. So that means he was definitely buried here.”

Mrs Nakamura’s mother never met her father, she was born just six days after the Hirano Maru was sunk. Mrs Nakamura said the memorial helped bring closure for the family.

“I feel very relieved to know the final resting place and that the memorial was built," she said. "My grandfather would be pleased to know that he is still being thought of.”

Saya Tsuzuki, who visited with her mother, said she wanted to thank the local people for coming to the memorial opening.

“Thank you for the kindness, from local people and the organisers. Until recently we didn’t know about this monument, it is quite overwhelming to see it.

“It came as a big surprise, it is a very small world.”

Machiko Sakai also visited the memorial with her daughter, Suzuko Sakai. They too had seen the story in a newspaper and it happened to coincide with a trip they were planning to London.

Mrs Sakai’s Grandfather had been based in London during the First World War, working for Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), the shipping company that owned the Hirano Maru.

“The article was in the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in Japan,” Mrs Sakai said. “It was at the same time we were visiting London, so we decided to come over here.

“It is amazing, it is like I have connected with my grandfather again. He must be so surprised.”

The event was also attended by dignitaries from the Japanese embassy and NYK.

Keiji Kubota from NYK said the first they knew about the memorial was when David James contacted them.

Mr Kubota said: “He explained that they are going to rebuild the memorial and asked if we would like to contribute because the vessel was owned and operated by NYK.

“We are very thankful to the people of Angle 100 years ago and today. 100 years ago, the people here took pity on the people who suffered this tragedy and they gave them a burial.”