LONDON — Former prisoner of war Arthur Titherington, who died last month at the age of 88, was one of Britain’s foremost campaigners in the battle to get an apology and compensation from Japan over wartime atrocities.
For years Titherington pursued cases in the Japanese courts but failed to get the redress he demanded from the government.
Japanese and British officials eager to promote reconciliation privately were frustrated by Titherington’s call for a “meaningful apology” from Tokyo.
Titherington, who was held in a copper mine in Taiwan during World War II, claimed the contrition expressed by Tokyo in its official apology was not sincere enough and it should have used a stronger form of words, said his stepson, Richard Adams.
Titherington also claimed the compensation offered by Japan following the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty was “derisory” and an insult to the cruelty meted out to POWs under Japanese control, according to Adams.
His legal claims, however, were unsuccessful because the treaty meant Japan was no longer responsible for any future claims arising from World War II.
Despite this, Titherington, who lived near Oxford, was always exploring new ways to mount a legal challenge.
“He talked a lot about the fight for compensation and an apology from Japan before his death and it was a great source of regret that he never achieved this,” Adams said.
Titherington was always keen to point out that his argument was never with the Japanese people and he made many Japanese friends along the way.
He was also a keen critic of the Japanese education system, which he claimed tended to gloss over wartime atrocities, and he often found himself educating the many young Japanese people who came to visit him.
His strident views were not shared by all former POWs, many of whom felt it was time to drop any legal battles and instead focus on reconciliation.
He formed the Japanese Labor Camp Survivors Association and hit the headlines in 1998 when he was one of several POWs who turned their back on Emperor Akihito’s carriage as it traveled up the Mall on a state visit in London.
But Titherington remained committed in his fight and said he was doing it in honor of his former comrades who never returned from the horror of the Japanese POW camps.
“We will keep on digging, not from any sense of hatred or revenge. What I want is justice,” Titherington said in 2000 after he successfully fought to get a special compensation payment from Britain.