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.

News
people

Arts and Entertainment
JJ Abrams' seventh Star Wars, The Force Awakens
filmsThe first glimpse of Episode VII has gone online after weeks of anticipation
News
Michael Buerk in the I'm A Celebrity jungle 2014
people
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of Downton Abbey in the 2014 Christmas special
art

Presents unwrapped, turkey gobbled... it's time to relax

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
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

Recruitment Genius: IT Cloud Support Engineer

£25000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a team player who likes...

Recruitment Genius: Skilled Machinist

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of additional skilled machini...

Recruitment Genius: Toolmaker

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: They are in need of additional skilled toolmak...

Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; up to £55k

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Langley James : Head of IT; e-commerce; Blackburn; ...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game