Prisoners of War faced a particularly grim experience during the war. While servicemen captured and held by Nazi Germany faced an arduous experience, many of them for almost 5 years, those unfortunate enough to be captured and imprisoned by the Japanese had to endure untold horrors before they were released.
The Japanese Government had not signed or recognised any of the international treaties on the treatment of Prisoners of War, such as the Geneva Convention. As such, the Japanese authorities felt under no obligation to treat prisoners humanely. In addition, Japanese military culture saw surrender as a shameful act, and it was widely felt that people who had allowed themselves to be captured were not deserving of respectful treatment. The Prisoners were allowed no access to Red Cross representation, and camps were not inspected by neutral countries. Prisoners faced brutal treatment, torture, summary punishment, forced labour, medical experiments, starvation rations and little or no medical treatment.
Unsurprisingly, the Tokyo Tribunal found that the death rate amongst Allied POW’s held by the Japanese was 27.1%. This was SEVEN times that of prisoners held by the Germans and Italians. Many Japanese personnel were tried and executed for war crimes after the war, and the pictures that emerged of the emaciated men liberated in the Far East shocked the world.
So far I have found two Portsmouth men who died and were buried in Japan during the Second World War, so were almost certainly prisoners of war when they died.
Lance-Sergeant Harold Kennard, 34 and from Stamshaw, was a member of the Royal Signals. He died on 28 December 1942. He was presumably captured in the 1941 and 1942 land battles in South East Asia, when the Allies faced a number of defeats, and taken to Japan to work as a forced labourer.
Private George Ogle, 46 and from North End, was a member of the Hong Kong Dockyard Defence Corps. He died on 5 February 1945. Hong Kong was the main base port of the Royal Navy’s China Station. Hong Kong was attacked by the Japanese on 8 December 1941, 8 hours after the raid on Pearl Harbour. By 25 December Hong Kong had fallen. He was also presumably taken to Japan as a slave labourer. He had served over three years as a Prisoner of the Japanese by the time of his death.
Sadly it is difficult to find out much more about them and their experiences, as the Red Cross were unable to keep records of them, as were the British Government.
Both Lance-Sergeant Kennard and Private George Ogle are buried in Yokohama War Cemetery, Japan.