Page last updated at 11:27 GMT, Wednesday, 18 June 2008 12:27 UK

PoW recalls Hiroshima bomb blast

Ssmoke billowing 20,000 feet above Hiroshima
Cyril Jones thought the Hiroshima blast was an exploding munitions dump

A former soldier who witnessed the dropping of the first atomic bomb as a prisoner of war in Japan is returning to the manor house where he was born.

Cyril Jones, 92, from Criccieth, Gwynedd, has been sharing his memories as a PoW as part of an Imperial War Museum oral history project.

He served at Dunkirk and the fall of Singapore and was captured after parachuting into Java in 1942.

He will attend a lunch at Bodidris Hall in Llandegla, Wrexham.

Mr Jones was born in the stately home because he parents worked on the estate and the then owner, a Colonel Dewhurst, wanted his mother to have her child in the hall, as there had not been a birth in the building since the 1890s.

He has been relating his experience to the oral history team at Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, in collaboration with the Imperial War Museum.

After arriving in Japan he was put to work in coal mines before ending up in a drift mine not far from the city of Hiroshima, where he witnessed the dropping of the first atom bomb in August 1945.

He said: "It was a lovely, sunny morning when we all noticed a bright, shiny aeroplane flying high above us.

It circled around for a while and we all thought it was taking reconaissance photographs for a planned bombing run of Hiroshima, when there was this almighty blast
Former PoW Cyril Jones on the plane carrying the bomb

"It circled around for a while and we all thought it was taking reconaissance photographs for a planned bombing run of Hiroshima, when there was this almighty blast.

"A few seconds later we were all blown completely off our feet by the resultant shockwaves. We all thought an ammunition dump had gone up!"

He came out of the war weighing only 5st (31.7kg). At a full medical inspection in the UK it was found that X-rays would not work due to the high levels of radioactivity in his system.

However, even before the bomb he had twice come close to dying.

One night as a PoW, he was told he would be executed the following morning. He stood blind-folded in a yard with his execution detail around him when someone approached.

He said: "Thankfully I'd picked quite a bit up so I understood: 'if you kill these men you'll have no-one to work in the mines', at which point they let me go."

Coconuts and bananas

But his other tale of good luck was when he was injured and cut off in the Javanese jungle after landing heavily by parachute.

He said: "As I was lying there a monkey appeared, gave me a look up and down before running off into the jungle.

"Shortly afterwards he returned with a coconut which he rolled over to me and I was very glad of the drink after I'd cracked it open.

"This continued for a number of days, with the monkey bringing me more coconuts and bananas until he turned up one day with bamboo shoots.

"He sat in front of me and actually showed me how to peel back the outer skin and then eat the inner part - amazing and I owe my life to him."

He is relating his stories to the oral history project run at the tropical medicine school.

Project researcher Meg Parkes said: "Each man has a unique story to tell but their experiences are related: all spent at least three and a half years as prisoners of war of the Japanese; all returned home sick and emaciated (most with myriad tropical illnesses); all were affected by their experiences."

End of the war - but no cheering
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09 Sep 01 |  Asia-Pacific
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01 Dec 05 |  UK Politics
Former PoW visits prison camp
04 May 05 |  Northern Ireland

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