Letter to the Mercury

Letter in the Leicester Mercury

      Ron Taylor - I was going through my pops collection of Fepow material and came across this in a FULCRUM NewsLetter, Issue 54, Winter 1997.

      The letter below was published in the Leicester Mercury on the 24th January 1998

      I thought you might like to read it, but please do not do so if you suffer from high blood pressure.

      The Japanese Prime Minister has now issued an apology for the treatment of Allied POWs during the Second World War.

      Numerous atrocities have been committed down the centuries, such as the slave trade, Culloden and its aftermath, the Spanish Inquisition, the Dissolution of the Monasteries, the extinction of Aborigine the New World, the 'A' bombs dropped on Japan, and of course the Holocaust, are but a few.

      The point is that it is wrong to hold present generations responsible for the actions of their ancestors.

      We English are descendants or cousins of the perpetrators of many of the mentioned criminal acts. Have we apologised ? And if we have, does it make amends ?

      My understanding of wartime history in the Far East is that when the Japanese forces arrived, our lads couldn't get their hands up fast enough. This offended Japanese sensibilities. That is why the POWs were subjected to the inhuman treatment.

      Contemptible Order

      If they had resolved to fight and die like men, captives would probably have been treated in accordance with the Geneva Convention.

      The order from above to surrender was contemptible. The men ought to have mutinied and fought on for king and country. As it was they compiled and worked as slaves for the Japanese war effort.

      In total war, no country can afford to support as POWs the mass surrender of their enemies' army.

      My grandmother had Italian POWs working on her farm. They were so hungry they stole chicks from their nests for her to cook for them. We put POWs to work and starved them, so did the Japanese.

      As for so-called veterans claiming compensation from the present-day Japanese, they are lucky their own side didn't execute them for cowardice when they were liberated.

      Robin J Geeson, Birstall

      I only wish my pop had shared this with me when he was alive, instead of hiding it away.

      Why did the Leicester Mercury print this unfeeling dribble ?

      Please keep the replies printable.

      Tim Richard Niles - Is it possible that part of the silence of the former POWs is that to an extent they believed this rot?

      Most of the men in my father's generation fought in WWII and very few talked about the experience, at least to those who weren't in the war itself. Clearly, they felt a tight kinship or suxh groups as the VFW in the US wouldn't have formed or been so influential, but whatever they spoke about the war was largely confined to their wartime peers and definitely not told to children.

      The Geeson statement is to an extent accurate about the feeding and care of POWs. Certainly in wartime, you can't expend vital resources to lodge them in a five star hotel. But his description of the threatment of the Italian POWs was pretty ugly. Geeson's statement sounds more like a lame justification for starving someone. I just thought of one of the comments that Jim made in the video; his transport back to England was by ship, but at some point he was guarding Germans who had been POWs in the US. Thinking that they must have undergone something of what he had suffered (or at least been forceably held from home and family during the war) he gave a few of them some little gifts like a chocolate bar or something, and discovered that the POWs in the US got treated pretty well, maybe only four star POW 'hotels.' Jim said: "I already knew I
      never wanted to be in a war again and definitely not a POW... but if it had to happen, I wanted to be captured by the US." Vintage Whittaker. Part of the reason the tape has been playng so much on the local cable system is because he makes the serious points and yet has a great sense of humor. And, with Jim, all statements have many meanings: he was 'captured' by the US.

      In the end, I can't determine if Geeson is a left wing nutcase or a right wing nutcase. Only one word is common to both descriptions, however.

      I've never asked Jim about his silence or why he finally began to speak publicly. Of course, before we went into the studio I'd heard very little of what we taped and to some extent was in shock. When someone you've known that long tells you these stunningly grotesque stories... and there is absolutely no doubt about the accuracy of the stories... the first questions that pop out aren't about why or when he started to speak out. The why is obvious and the when is inconsequential. What he did is as necessary as what FEPOW is doing. I haven't talked with Jim since Christmas, so it's about time, maybe we'll get together in the studio again soon.

      PS - One of the fepow members asked me about the videotape, but while I was replying, my email software got clobbered and I lost the original email as well as my reply. This is the first time that something like that has happened, but in the last year I've discovered that Windows Millenium is closer to a large virus than an operating system, so nothing that happens with WinMe is a total shock. I've been writing software since 1969 and if I had my name on WinMe, I'd be embarrassed... in fact, I'm embarrassed that I'm still using it, but until I head back to CA (in the blissfull days before 9/11 I was scheduled to return there in October) I'll keep running WinMe because removing it might be as painful as installing it proved to be. I'll leave this system behind and buy one with a very large hard drive, etc, because the more I use my PC, the more documents I want to store as images, for business and personal

      The answer to the question about the tape is that Ron has a copy of it. Obviously, so do I, so it is available. If my readings of the fepow email exchanges are accurate, there are many people who have a mixture of emotion and curiosity related to how their fathers or male relatives were treated as POWs and how that affected them afterwards. I wish we had the bandwidth or the hard drive so that the video could be shared without the tape as intermediary. The two hour tape has played here hundreds of times on the local cable system and there aren't any commercial interruptions nor were there any time constraints on the original conversation. It's a program that people want to watch here or it souldn't play, and I'm sure that Jim is recognized whenever he gets out these days.

      Ron Taylor - I have added the text from your email to the Monthly Revue. Very stimulating and opens many doors to explore.

      David got in touch about the tape. I will try to get a copy off for him.

      I have got a Media Streamer on our servers, it's O.K. for sound broadcast but not enough bandwidth for video.

      Its under www.crystal-radio.org.uk

      As you say Geeson sounds like a nut case.

      Ron Taylor - Geeson's letter has certainly achieved mixed reaction from the List, some aimed at me for putting it on.
      We all agree Geeson's letter was unfeeling and very right wing, but the point was:
      Why did the Leicester Mercury print it, knowing that the 1st Leicesters fought in Malaya. Their numbers were so badly hit in Jitra, they had to be amalgamated with the
      East Surreys under the ‘British Battalion’ as a result. The British Battalion continued to fight courageously through the long retreat and also into Singapore. Then to spend three and a half years as Japanese POWs in a living hell.
      I don’t know what the follow up was in Leicester when this was printed, I suspect there were many replies.


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