Survivors of the Japanese tell Tokyo of horror years

Richard Lloyd Parry reports on the opening of a mass compensation case brought by former PoWs

A former British prisoner-of-war and a civilian internee appeared in a Tokyo court yesterday to describe the inhumane treatment which they suffered 50 years ago at the hands of the Japanese Imperial Army.

Arthur Titherington and Phyllis Jameson are among a group of five Second World War captives suing the Japanese government on behalf of veterans' organisations in Britain, Australia, New Zealand and the US. The groups filed a suit in January demanding pounds 14,000 for each of their 25,000 members.

Mr Titherington, 73, secretary of the Japanese Labour Camp Survivors' Association, was a despatch rider in the Royal Corps of Signals. He was captured after the fall of Singapore in 1942. In his submission to the Tokyo District Court, he described a typical day at the Kinkaseki copper mine in Taiwan, where he spent two and half years. "We were awakened each morning at dawn by the Japanese guards bursting into the hut, and beating all of the occupants with whatever they had in their hands, from a rifle but to a bamboo stick," he said. "The morning rice was about one cupful per man except for the men who were not working, usually the sick. This meant that since we shared our rice out equally, we all got that much less.

"On leaving the camp, we descended about 1,500 roughly cut steps down to the minehead where we were again counted, more violence, and were then handed over to the mine hanchos [supervisors]."

At first, prisoners were required to fill one or two carts of copper ore every day but as time passed this was increased to 25 carts every day. Those who failed to match the quota were beaten with a hammer or forced to run up and down a flight of 80 steps for an hour. "Men died of this punishment, since it was always the weak and sick who failed to fill their quota," he said.

"We were often kept on parade for two or even three hours before being allowed to go. In the evening, after climbing back up the steps on their hands and knees, prisoners were kept on parade for two or three hours before being allowed another bowl of rice.

"There was always some men being punished or tortured for some misdeed or other," he said, "and there was always a prisoner in the eiso, a small cell about eight feet square where you were not allowed to lay down or sit, but to kneel at all times. This kind of day went on mainichi, mainichi, mainichi [every day] for two and half years. Of the 523 men who went into the mine in December 1942, only about 100 were alive at the war's end."

Mrs Jameson was 13 in 1942 when her mother, brother and sisters were evacuated from their home in Singapore. En route to India, their ship was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine. "My brother managed to get his wife and I on to a lifeboat before the ship sank, taking him, my mother and my five other sisters to their deaths," she told the court. The shipwrecked survivors were picked up by a Japanese ship and transferred to the Palembang slave camp in Indonesia. She was forced to saw down trees and dig graves for fellow inmates who died of thirst and malnutrition while building roads.

"We had to capture snakes and monkeys to supplement our diet. I was once caught climbing a fruit tree and made to stand in the sun for 12 hours without food or water, and with heavy baskets hanging from my neck. On one occasion I can remember having to dig a grave. A guard complained and when I answered back he went berserk, punching and kicking me until I fell in."

Mrs Jameson wept as she described being sexually abused by the prison guards. "I probably only avoided being raped because my sister-in-law shaved my head to make me look less attractive. Even to this day I still have a feeling of great shame over what happened to me. I suffered from malnutrition, tropical disease, malaria and leg ulcers. As a result of my treatment, I have been unable to have my own children and I have suffered from the most severe depressions that have led to me twice trying to take my own life. The Japanese have inflicted upon me a legacy that has hung over my life like a dark cloud."

The Japanese government has not questioned the truth of the claims, but maintains that wartime compensation issues were settled in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, which exempted it from reparations.

Last year the Japanese Prime Minister, Tomiichi Murayama, launched a 100 billion yen war atonement fund for education and welfare projects in countries whose citizens were affected by Japanese mistreatment, but this gesture has been rejected by veterans' organisations, who demand individual compensation. Keith Martin, of the Association of British Civilian Internees, said: "How can you go to a blind, paralysed 85-year-old ex- soldier and say, 'cultural exchange'?"

The plaintiffs had hoped to settle the matter outside court, but meetings with representatives of the Japanese foreign ministry produced no results. Further hearings will be held in October, and the survivors' solicitors hope the case will be settled by mid-1996.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
glastonbury
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Shock of the news: Jake Gyllenhaal in ‘Nightcrawler’
filmReview: Gyllenhaal, in one of his finest performances, is funny, engaging and sinister all at once
Life and Style
Taste the difference: Nell Frizzell tucks into a fry-up in Jesse's cafe in east London
food + drinkHow a bike accident left one woman living in a distorted world in which spices smell of old socks and muesli tastes like pork fat
Arts and Entertainment
Kit Harington has been given a huge pay rise to extend his contract as Jon Snow in Game of Thrones
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Don’t send in the clowns: masks and make-up conceal true facial expressions, thwarting our instinct to read people’s minds through their faces, as seen in ‘It’
filmThis Halloween, we ask what makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?
News
peopleFarage challenges 'liberally biased' comedians to 'call him a narcissist'
Arts and Entertainment
Liam and Zayn of One Direction play with a chimpanzee on the set of their new video for 'Steal My Girl'
music
Arts and Entertainment
Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
music
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior IP Opportunity at Major Firm

vary Attractive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - AN OPENING AT A VERY HIGH Q...

Nursery Manager

£100 - £110 per day: Randstad Education Ilford: Nursery Manager Long term Ran...

Sales Consultant – Permanent – West Sussex – £24-£25k plus commission and other benefits

£24000 - £25000 Per Annum plus company car and commission: Clearwater People S...

SEN Teaching Assistant

£45 - £65 per day: Randstad Education Bristol: Supply SEN Support Jobs in Bris...

Day In a Page

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

The drugs revolution starts now as MPs agree its high time for change

Commons debate highlights growing cross-party consensus on softening UK drugs legislation, unchanged for 43 years
The camera is turned on tabloid editors in Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter'

Gotcha! The camera is turned on tabloid editors

Hugh Grant says Richard Peppiatt's 'One Rogue Reporter' documentary will highlight issues raised by Leveson
Fall of the Berlin Wall: It was thanks to Mikhail Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell

Fall of the Berlin Wall

It was thanks to Gorbachev that this symbol of division fell
Halloween 2014: What makes Ouija boards, demon dolls, and evil clowns so frightening?

What makes ouija boards and demon dolls scary?

Ouija boards, demon dolls, evil children and clowns are all classic tropes of horror, and this year’s Halloween releases feature them all. What makes them so frightening, decade after decade?
A safari in modern Britain: Rose Rouse reveals how her four-year tour of Harlesden taught her as much about the UK as it did about NW10

Rose Rouse's safari in modern Britain

Rouse decided to walk and talk with as many different people as possible in her neighbourhood of Harlesden and her experiences have been published in a new book
Welcome to my world of no smell and odd tastes: How a bike accident left one woman living with unwanted food mash-ups

'My world of no smell and odd tastes'

A head injury from a bicycle accident had the surprising effect of robbing Nell Frizzell of two of her senses

Matt Parker is proud of his square roots

The "stand-up mathematician" is using comedy nights to preach maths to big audiences
Paul Scholes column: Beating Manchester City is vital part of life at Manchester United. This is first major test for Luke Shaw, Angel Di Maria and Radamel Falcao – it’s not a game to lose

Paul Scholes column

Beating City is vital part of life at United. This is first major test for Shaw, Di Maria and Falcao – it’s not a game to lose
Frank Warren: Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing

Frank Warren column

Call me an old git, but I just can't see that there's a place for women’s boxing
Adrian Heath interview: Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room

Adrian Heath's American dream...

Former Everton striker prepares his Orlando City side for the MLS - and having Kaka in the dressing room
Simon Hart: Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manchester City will rise again but they need to change their attitude

Manuel Pellegrini’s side are too good to fail and derby allows them to start again, says Simon Hart
Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes