THE anniversary of the use of atomic bombs in World War Two was marked with a vigil at the Buttercross.

The United States detonated nuclear weapons in 1945 over Hiroshima on August 6 and Nagasaki on August 9, ending the war. The combined death tolls are estimated at up to 250,000, both those killed immediately and others who died subsequently of burns and radiation.

Winchester Quakers' Peace and Social Witness group gathered at the monument calling for nuclear disarmament as mandated by the United Nations Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, ratified last October.

The gathering asked: How will nuclear weapons help us avert climate catastrophe?

The Mayor of Winchester, Councillor Vivian Achwal commemorated the 76th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, with a reception at Abbey House on 6 August. She launched a project in partnership with the University of Winchester’s Faculty of Education, local schools and Winchester members of SGI-UK, a lay Buddhist organisation working for culture, education and peace.

She said, “I am the 822nd Mayor of Winchester – and the third to be a member of Mayors for Peace. I am proud to be part of a network of over 8,000 world cities, including 84 in the UK”.

Mayors for Peace is an international, non-political organisation with three aims:

· To realise a world without nuclear weapons

· To realise safe and resilient cities free from environmental degradation

· To promote a culture of peace

The event featured a reading of what it was like to live through the atomic bombing and a moment of silent reflection followed by meditative flute music.

The Mayor explained how the Mayor of Hiroshima had sent some seeds from Ginkgo trees that survived the atomic bombing. These trees became a symbol of hope at a time when there seemed to be none. Until they sprouted, people believed that nothing would grow for 70 years. Because of this, they decided to rebuild Hiroshima, rather than abandon it.

Launching the Ginkgo Tree Project, Maurice James, the University of Winchester’s Estates Grounds Manager explained how the seeds would need to be nurtured for 4-5 years before being sturdy enough to plant out.

John Brackstone, Director of Operations for the Faculty of Education described plans to work with schools in the District to spread a message of hope for the future. The Ginkgo Tree Project would also promote positive environmental and anti-bullying messages and support schools to creating peace gardens. An awareness of the time it will take the trees to grow will encourage thinking towards future generations.

The Mayor closed the event by thanking representatives from the University of Winchester, local community and faith groups, Winchester City Council and Hampshire County Council.

The afternoon concluded with the making of origami Peace Cranes, which will be part of the activities in schools when the project is launched after the summer holidays in autumn 2021.