On the first anniversary of the devastating Japanese earthquake and tsunami, Hertfordshire's Chief Fire Officer Roy Wilsher spoke on behalf of Britain's international search and rescue team at a special memorial at the Japanese Embassy.

In March 2011, Chief Officer Wilsher led the UK international search and rescue team in Japan searching for earthquake survivors. At the weekend he joined Japan's ambassador to the UK, Keiichi Hayashi, and Lord Howell (representing the UK government) in speaking at a special memorial service to mark the tragedy that claimed over 18,000 lives. There was a moment of silence to remember those who died at 2.45pm − the exact time (local time) that the nine-magnitude earthquake struck.

Roy Wilsher said: "It is an honour to be invited to speak at what I am sure will be a very poignant ceremony. My thoughts are with everyone who was and continue to be affected by this disaster."

Roy Wilsher and the rest of the UK team of 59 fire and rescue personnel and four medics flew out to assist with the rescue operations in the towns of Ofunato and Kamaishi. Both towns suffered significant damage and loss of life.

Arriving at an US Air Force base in Northern Japan on Sunday afternoon, the team then moved by a land based convoy to Ofunato to establish a base of operations. The UK team worked with two American teams from Los Angeles and Fairfax County.

Emotional scenes greeted the team as they travelled, with local people stopping in the streets, some in tears, as the convoy of more than 25 vehicles travelled the 200 kilometres from the air base to Ofunato.

Roy Wilsher remembered: "It was a very moving scene − one that will always stay with everyone who was there.

"Our priority was searching for survivors and closely monitoring the situation with the Fukushima nuclear plant, less than 100 kilometres away from us. There was a lot of devastation all around, but we focused on what we were there to do as this was what we had trained for. I was privileged to be the strategic lead for a team of such highly skilled and professional people, to provide help at a time when the people of Japan needed us most."


Posted March 12th, 2012 at 1410 by Andrew. Comment by emailing: andrew.lynch@pavpub.com