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British ex-PoW meets Japanese veterans in Tokyo

Published 12/11/2015

British veteran Roy Welland, right, exchanges gifts with ex-Japanese soldier Mikio Kinoshita (AP)
British veteran Roy Welland, right, exchanges gifts with ex-Japanese soldier Mikio Kinoshita (AP)

Two veterans from opposing sides in one of harshest battles of the Second World War have shaken hands and sipped tea in Tokyo as part of a reconciliation programme between the UK and Japan.

Roy Welland, 94, a former British Army sergeant, and Taiji Urayama, 93, an ex-Imperial Army lieutenant, survived the Battle of Kohima in northern India, near the Burmese border, and met for the first time at a British Embassy reception in Tokyo.

Another Japanese veteran, Mikio Kinoshita, 95, who served as an engineer on the notorious Thai-Burma railway, joined the gathering.

More than 70 years after the battle, a formal atmosphere quickly thawed, sending the audience into laughter when Mr Kinoshita bounced up from the sofa as the much bigger Mr Welland sat next to him.

A frail-looking Mr Urayama arrived in a wheelchair assisted by his daughter, but moved to the sofa to join the others, where they exchanged gifts and shook hands.

While the men were mostly quiet, Mr Urayama's daughter, Akiko McDonald, said she was "deeply moved" to see her father meet Mr Welland.

As the three veterans sat together on a long couch with English-style tea and cake, British ambassador Tim Hitchens said: "Today we can remember the past, but we can also honour the change through reconciliation between people."

Tokyo invites British, American and Australian former prisoners of war to Japan under the friendship programmes.

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