World news story

UK-Japan veterans’ reconciliation reception

Remembrance Day and 70th anniversary of the end of WWII; British and Japanese veterans reunite at British Embassy Tokyo

UK-Japan veterans’ reconciliation reception

Photo credit: Julian Ryall

On the 11 November the UK remembers those that have given their lives in service to their country. This year is the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII, when we remember the tremendous loss on all sides, but also recognize the enormous changes that have occurred through reconciliation.

On 12 November 2015, the British Embassy Tokyo welcomed 94 year old Mr Roy Welland, a former Sergeant from the Royal Berkshire Regiment and Mr Taiji Urayama, a former Lieutenant of the Mountain Artillery and Veterinary of 31 Regiment. Both men fought at one of the most bloody battles of the war at Kohima in 1944. Also joining the reconciliation event was Mr Mikio Kinoshita, a former Sergeant of the 5th Regiment, Railway Construction Army. Mr Kinoshita recently travelled to the UK to meet a British former prisoner of the Thai-Burma railway.

Although these men were on separate sides in Burma, they met at the embassy as old soldiers, and in friendship. Mr Welland brought with him photo folders of the Battle of Kohima memorial, a cemetery set at the exact spot of the famous battle. He gave one each to the Japanese veterans, while Mr Kinoshita brought a Kimekomi Ningyo doll made by his daughter. Mr Urayama brought with him a reconciliation tie specially made to give to Mr Welland.

In his opening remarks at this special event, British Ambassador to Japan Mr Tim Hitchens said:

Today we can remember the past, but we can also honour the change through reconciliation between people.

Japanese veteran Mr Kinoshita said:

I am very grateful for being invited to today’s reconciliation event. It is a great pleasure for me to meet Mr Welland, Mr Urayama and their families.

British veteran Mr Roy Welland said:

It’s wonderful to be here in Japan. Everyone has been so friendly. As for today’s meeting, well there are no words. It’s rather overwhelming. But this is why we do it. It’s about these simple moments which carry a lot of meaning. I’d like to thank everyone involved in making this happen and I want to keep doing things like this for a few more years if I can. It just keeps getting better.

Published 12 November 2015