Contributed by Terrence Seymour, Assistant Curator Weapons
Amongst the recent donations to the National Army Museum is a Japanese Pattern 1877 Cavalry Troopers Sword and with it an intriguing story.
The sword was found along with a large number of other weapons buried in many caches scattered around an area at Matsue, Shimane Prefecture, Japan during the New Zealand occupation of Japan at the end of World War II.
The New Zealand troops known as J Force or Jayforce had the role of overseeing the repatriation of Japanese soldiers, preventing illegal immigration by Koreans, finding and destroying war stores, and endeavouring to introduce democracy to the Japanese.
This particular sword was one of 17 swords, approximately 1,000 rifles, 27 medium machine guns, 11 X 20mm cannons, 5 X 20mm anti-aircraft guns and almost 37,000 rounds of various types of ammunition, all discovered in May 1948 during investigations following reports of buried equipment in the area.
It was later discovered, upon interrogation of former officers of the various Japanese units, that on 16 August 1945, the day after the Japanese capitulation, a former Commanding Officer of 51 Air Training Unit received orders from a General to preserve and bury all the weapons and ammunition other than the absolute minimum required to be handed over to the Commonwealth Forces.
One of these caches was situated under a Shrine dedicated to the Japanese God of War.
The Japanese Commander, Lieutenant Colonel Sakaguchi said, “Becuase of the Japanese characteristic of honour in palces of worship, I reasoned that once a shrine was built on the spot, no one would dare dig underneath it, and I felt that the arms would remain unmolested.”
He included in the cache an apology written in his own blood on fine rice paper and translated as:
From: Commander 1st Coy, Lt. Sakamoto Natsua
To: The C.O.
I allowed my subordinates to commit a great offence for which I am very sorry.