Having read the article on the reconciliation forum in the recent COFEPOW Quarterly Magazine, I have thought long and hard about whether I should share my views on the subject and have finally decided to do so.
I feel quite strongly that reconciliation on this matter is not ours to give - only the men who suffered the cruelty, the starvation, the hard labour and disrespect during three and a half years as Japanese POWs can do so - and they are no longer here to ask or to give their consent.
My father was John McEwan, author of Out of the Depths of Hell. He spent almost three years on Taiwan, most of the time slaving in the Kinkaseki copper mine before, in May 1945, being moved to the Kukutsu extermination camp. He suffered from the cruelty dished out, not only by the Japanese guards, but also from the Taiwanese hanchos. He weighed only five and a half stones when he was liberated.
He spoke little of his own experiences but was tortured by the fact that so many of his friends died - sometimes as he tried to comfort them - and he often said, "It was all young men that were dying out there". These deaths were needless and the hopelessness of the situation affected my father, not only when he came home, but throughout the remainder of his life.
My father was one of the men of his Regiment - (the 155th Lanarkshire Yeomanry Field Reg. R.A.) - who, on several occasions, were taken to the beaches at Changi. They had to watch while the Japanese machine gunned Chinese civilians and then they had to bury them in mass graves - while some of these unfortunates were still alive.
I have full respect for the Japanese of today but I, myself, could never be reconciled with the Japanese of the war years or with the guards of other nationalities at that time. Brigadier Philip Toosey was fortunate in knowing Saito - a decent Japanese - but there were few others.
Finally, if the war had not ended when it did, there would have been no COFEPOW as "The Final Disposition of the Prisoners" would have been carried out and none of the POWs would have come home.