100 signatures reached
To: The Prime Minister
Government Apology to Families of 414 British PoW Murdered in Untried & Concealed War Crime in 1943
I am seeking, on behalf of my own and other Suez Maru families, a formal two-part apology from the British Government;
- for not seeking legal justice for British subjects, 414 servicemen, murdered in the worst untried war crime of the Second World War, and;
- for concealing their murders from our bereaved families for some seventy years
First, an apology is overdue for erroneously deciding against proceeding to a trial of the perpetrators accused (and in some cases arrested and detailed) in a fully investigated war crime. Namely, the murder, by machine-gun and rifle-fire, of c. 250-300 defenceless British and Dutch prisoners of war, left struggling in the open sea on the sinking of their hellship, Suez Maru. One of the men killed was my great uncle, Jack, murdered at 23 years of age.
Second, for concealment of the entire Suez Maru atrocity, the case, proceedings and details of the war crime investigation, deliberations regarding the possibility of a Suez Maru war crime trial, alongside all known facts of the deaths of our loved ones from all 414 British families, for almost seventy years. The families have been obliged to discover the truth for themselves through painstaking research in Australian and UK archives.
The, then, Government's erroneous decision not to proceed to trial, is shown in particular clarity by the fact that the Government was presented with the detailed facts and particulars of the 'open and shut' case in 1949, and advised to proceed to trial. We ask today's British government to take the opportunity to exhibit the tenacity and moral duty so well instilled in the generation of the Second World War and issue a formal two-fold apology to our families, so we can begin the process of healing this ever-spreading wound of injustice, because 'it is the contrary event, and the relatives of the murdered prisoners of war do cause questions to be asked, as we know those responsible have never been brought to justice.' * see below.
Why is this important?
In 1949, as the decades-long hunt to convict Nazi war criminals was only four years old, and inexplicably far-east war crime trials would be closed within months, a Japanese soldier, Y. Kashiki, wrote to Allied war crime investigators. He outlined a previously unknown war crime of such barbarity it retains the power to shock and repulse today.
Kashiki described, "The fact[s] of prisoners murder case, [aboard] the S. S. Suez-Maru, a Japanese transport ship, which...sailed from Ambon,...She was torpedoed and sunk... at...9.30 a.m. 29th Nov. 1943. [and] prisoners, about 270 or 280,... were killed on the reason that they could not be rescued. But, we, about 200 Japanese, who were on board the ship, were all rescued..."
In fact, between 250-300 defenceless British and Dutch prisoners of war, who had already suffered nearly two years of barbaric treatment, survived the sinking of their 'hellship' transport, then spent some seven hours clinging to flotsam in the open Pacific, only to be systematically machine-gunned and shot by rifle-fire in cold blood, by c.20 named gunnery crew (headed by D. Yatsuka), aboard their Japanese naval escort, the minesweeper, W12. The W12 commander (O.Kawano) and war crime perpetrators (M. Iketani et al.), then conspired to falsify war records, and concealed the atrocity, until revealed by Kashiki, in 1949. A full investigation ensued, calling over 22 individuals for questioning, resulting in SCAP conclusion that, "It is considered that there is sufficient evidence to constitute a prima facie case against Kawano, Iketani, Yatsuka, and other[s]... officers and crew of minesweeper W12,... and to bring these participants to trial."
This was no little-known war crime that accidentally 'fell between the cracks', this case was presented to the highest levels of the British Government. Significantly, the British Lord Chancellor, Jowitt, on exposure to the Suez Maru case, responded with horror, saying, “ ... the case of the Suez Maru atrocity is a particularly nasty one, and one which would arouse great feeling in this country as it concerns so many Allied men murdered at sea...” The British Foreign Secretary, Bevin, stated, "...there must inevitably be a strong moral case for bringing war-criminals to this kind of trial,...” and the British Secretary of State for War, Shinwell*, wrote that, "... the relatives of the murdered prisoners of war might well cause questions to be asked if they heard that those responsible would never be brought to justice.”
The fact that this war crime was presented to the highest levels of the very Government elected to pursue justice for British subjects, that the right moral and legal decision was entirely within the gift of that Government, and that, in fact, the case had already been recommended to proceed to trial, and that the moment of justice was noted and ignored and thereby allowed to pass our loved ones by, and further, that the entirety of the Suez Maru case and the potential trial was then deliberately concealed from the very families of the men killed, is the reason for this campaign and petition.
How it will be delivered
the first 300 names will be delivery to 10 Downing Street on 9 February 2024, and thereafter as the signatories increase.