Hiroshima Day

BBC News In pictures

Sombre, I know.

Saturday (August 6) is Hiroshima Day - 60 years since the first nuclear weapon - the original weapon of mass destruction - was used to devastating effect as an act of war.

Some modern historians now view the event as being the first action of the Cold War: the US used its most powerful weapon not simply as a means of ending the war in Japan, but as a threat and show of force to the Soviet Union - and the first step in the endless arms race. Japan's surrender was only part of the reasoning behind the dropping of the first nuclear bomb. Hundreds of thousands of people died, either immediately or as an effect of being exposed to extreme doses of radiation - as well as being the last victims of one war, they were the first of another. It is more luck than judgement that nuclear weapons haven't been deployed since the last bomb fell on Nagasaki (August 9, 1945).

Today Japan is a nuclear free zone (unsurprisingly). More surprisingly, for a country that was so damaged by nuclear weapons, Japan is facing grave difficulties in finding ways to remember those who died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Memorials and peace gardens are losing their significance to the younger generation and Japan has a growing nuclear lobby.

For a long time I was a member of CND. I protested, I shook my fundraising tin, I furtively painted "shadows" on Hiroshima Day and Nagasaki Day (whitewash outlines of fallen bodies on the pavement to represent those killed where they stood, leaving nothing but a shadow of where their corpses burned in the nuclear explosion) I badgered and hectored friends, family and passers-by. I wasearnest, naive and fervent. I saw things in simple, clear-cut, political terms and didn't really think about the personal and human aspect of war: it wasn't that I was posturing, more that I was trying ideas on until they felt right. Somewhere along the line, I drifted away from the peace movement - not that I became warlike, rather I threw my attention to other things - and settled into a more personally peaceable life with less challenging of ideas and concepts.

I don't believe that we truly are any closer to a peaceful world - and that is a sorry memorial for those who died as a consequence of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It seems as though we are shifting further and further from the ideal of peace every day. Maybe it is time I started to think more seriously about the peace movement and of learning lessons from the past - and maybe I should think more seriously too about drifting back.