The day the British Government shamed Japan
By making compensation payments the British Government finally accepted the responsibility toward the
former prisoners of the Japanese during the Second World War, 1942-1945.
On the occasion of the annual Remembrance Day in Britain, 7th November 2000, the Under Secretary of Defence
Dr. Lewis Moonie announced that the Government decided to pay an ex gratia payment to the former Far
Eastern prisoners of war.
After half a century of the Allied Peace Treaty with Japan (1951), the Prime Minster Tony Blair agreed that it
was high time for a proper and final settlement. A payment the Japanese Government should have done,
according to the members of the House.
After the Second World War the prisoners of the Japanese became the forgotten victims, those who served in
the war against Japan the forgotten heroes.
“I am very pleased to inform the House that the Government have decided to make a single ex gratia payment
of 10.000 pounds to each of the surviving members of the groups who were held prisoner by the Japanese
during the Second World War, in recognition of the unique circumstances of their captivity”. (Dr. Moonie).
The following are quotes from the speeches made by the members of the House “on both sides”.
…. What happened to those prisoners was often so appalling that for many it has remained with them for the
rest of their lives. Conditions were so bad that one in four did not survive. The unique nature of the Japanese
captivity was recognised in the 1950s, when those held captive became eligible for modest payments from
Japanese assets, made under the provisions of the 1951 San Francisco Treaty of Peace with Japan. The
maximum payment available at that time was no more than 76 pounds and 10 shilling.
In the intervening years the former prisoners and their organisations pursued the issue of additional
compensation with Japan. To no avail, as Japan has been able to refer to the peace treaty, which had waived
Japan’s obligations to pay reparation, as the belligerent party. And the policy of successive (British)
Governments had been not to make such payments in the place of Japan.
(Quotes from the speeches)
“We are now making an exception for the British groups that were held prisoner by the Japanese in recognition
of the unique circumstances of their collective captivity. And in remembrance of those who died as a result
of the starvation diet, the slave working conditions, the cruelty and the torture. It would be a sad day if this
country would ever forget them or forgot to honour their memory”.
“Obviously, compensation should have been paid by the Japanese, failing that, we have done our duty and
We must have regard to the Prime Minister’s victory. For 50 years, Foreign Office lawyers said that the money
could not be paid, Ministry of Defence bureaucrats said…it would set a precedent, and Treasury officials said it
must not be because it would cost money. ….this Labour Prime Minister has defeated Whitehall, and for this we
should all give thanks.
“The Japanese Government should have been making this gesture. The Government of Japan want to see their
country join the full community of civilised nations, they will hang their heads in shame that we (the British
Government) had to make this gesture.
In this respect we expect from the Government that they will continue to put pressure on the Japanese
Government to issue an apology to those who were subject to such persecution and that we (the British
Government) had to pay this compensation in their place. For those who survived it is not a matter of
compensation but of principle. The Japanese Government should be paying, not the British.
Japan’s financial position is now much different from what it was at the time of the San Francisco agreement in
In the same year 2000 the following governments decided to follow up the British example to substitute for
the Japanese Government by making a generous ex gratia payment to their surviving former victims of Japanese
persecution during World War Two.
Australia, Canada, New Zealand and Norway.
The then Government of the Netherlands did not feel inclined to follow suit and substitute for the Japanese
Government in making an adequate compensation payment to the surviving Dutch victims of the Japanese
concentration camps in the former Dutch East Indies and elsewhere in the Asian countries that were occupied
by Japan during the Second World War.
The Dutch Association of ex Victims of Japanese POW/Internee Camps 1942-1945 (SVJ) is now seeking support
This article is based on the debate in the British House of Parliament on November 7, 2000. The minutes were generously made available to SVJ by the British Ministry of Defence.
For further information, please contact:
Secretary General SVJ
Stichting Vervolgingsslachtoffers Jappenkamp
(Association of Victims of the Japanese concentration camps in the Far East during the Second World War)
e-mail address: email@example.com