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Planning and Realities: the Recovery of Britain's Far East Prisoners of War 1941-1945

Chesworth, Andrew (2017) Planning and Realities: the Recovery of Britain's Far East Prisoners of War 1941-1945. PhD thesis, University of Sheffield.

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Abstract

SUMMARY Although a great deal has been written concerning the wartime experiences of Britain’s Far East prisoners of war, less is known of Whitehall’s attempts to ameliorate the conditions the men experienced while in Japanese hands, or issues surrounding their repatriation to the United Kingdom. This study initially examines London’s diplomatic approaches to Tokyo, along with their attempts to send consignments of relief and purchase aid locally. It then focuses on the planning process for the recovery of prisoners and internees to the United Kingdom. Finally, the research examines the realities of the recovery operations, and draws distinctions between the experiences of those former prisoners who were repatriated by British-led operations in southern areas, with those who returned from American-led northern areas. The first chapter discusses Whitehall’s changing understanding of Japan’s treatment of British prisoners of war, it goes on to analyse the problems which arose from Tokyo’s failure to provide information in connection with the identities of prisoners, and discusses Britain’s diplomatic approaches to Japan. The Second Chapter explores Allied attempts to send additional aid including bulk consignments of relief, and the local purchase of additional supplies in selected areas. The remaining chapters examine both the planning and the realities of the recovery process. The third chapter discusses the ways in which the plans for the Recovery of Allied Prisoners of War and Internees (RAPWI) operations evolved over time. Finally, the fourth chapter studies the realities of the recovery operations utilising the testimony of the personnel taking part in the RAPWI operations, together with accounts from those being recovered. The thesis concludes that the reason for the failure of Allied relief efforts, lay with Tokyo’s attitudes towards the rights and needs of prisoners of war. Although Whitehall was aware of the likely shortfall in nutrition as a result of the poor rations provided by the Japanese, if the Allied governments had been successful in sending regular bulk quantities of aid, this would have potentially given prisoners a better standard of nutrition than Tokyo considered necessary for its own fighting personnel. As a consequence, London had virtually no chance of sending sufficient aid to the Far East to maintain the long-term health of its prisoners. When considering the overall understanding of the conditions the men had experienced, Whitehall claimed that it attempted to control the spread of information relating to the appalling treatment of prisoners in the Far East, in order to prevent unnecessary distress for their relatives. The study finds that this stance, when coupled with orders which aimed to prevent former prisoners speaking to the press, and advice to families relating to their treatment of returning prisoners, contributed to a lack of understanding concerning the full extent of the hardships the men had suffered. It concludes that this was compounded by the repatriation process which involved long sea voyages, which in turn allowed many to gain a great deal of their former weight, and argues that this had the effect of disguising the lack of assistance the prisoners had received during their time in Japanese hands.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield)
The University of Sheffield > Faculty of Arts and Humanities (Sheffield) > History (Sheffield)
Identification Number/EthosID: uk.bl.ethos.733599
Depositing User: Mr Andrew Chesworth
Date Deposited: 12 Feb 2018 09:24
Last Modified: 12 Oct 2018 09:51
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/19262

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