Skip to main content

British Prisoners Of War, Far East

Volume 395: debated on Wednesday 1 December 1943

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

asked the Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs in view of the paucity of news regarding British prisoners in Japanese hands and the inability of the friendly Power to obtain informa- tion, whether joint representation may be made by the British and United States Governments to all neutral Powers having their representatives still in Japan to ask the Japanese Government to permit an immediate inquiry by International Red Cross representatives of neutral countries, who would render a Report to their respective Governments on all aspects of the position?

The Japanese authorities at the start of their military campaign made it clear that they would not allow representatives either of neutral Powers or of the International Red Cross Committee to establish themselves in newly occupied territories. All neutral representatives were either recalled or were no longer recognised. The International Red Cross Committee have repeatedly requested the Japanese Government to relax this ruling and to allow the appointment of International Red Cross delegates in Malaya, the Philippine Islands, the Netherland East Indies and Burma. This the Japanese authorities have persistently refused to do.The plain fact is that the Japanese have no intention of allowing neutral or international observers to see conditions in the occupied territories until it suits them. We are therefore bound to conclude that the Japanese have something to hide and that the conditions in those areas, especially of our prisoners of war and civilian internees, would not bear independent investigation. I would emphasise that it is not the method or the channel of approach to the Japanese authorities which is at fault, but simply the Japanese character and attitude towards the Geneva Convention and prisoner of war questions generally. I am satisfied that everything that is humanly possible is being done both by the Swiss authorities and by the International Red Cross Committee on behalf of our men and women in Japanese hands.

asked the First Lord of the Admiralty the total number of Royal naval officers and ratings in the hands of the Japanese; what information has so far been received affecting how many officers and ratings; and what steps the Admiralty have taken to obtain confirmation of such information as has been received and to obtain further information?

The total number of officers and ratings known to be prisoners of war in Japanese hands are 189 and 1,707 respectively. Approximately two-thirds were identified by radio broadcasts; the remaining third were reported by Tokyo through the International Red Cross at Geneva, except a few who communicated direct with their relatives at home. The Foreign Office after consultation with the Admiralty and acting on behalf of the United Kingdom and Dominions Governments has made strong representations to the Protecting Power protesting against the failure of the Japanese Government to furnish complete lists of prisoners of war and of those who have died in captivity. Unfortunately, so far little success has been achieved.