Friday, July 2, 2010

'I Owe My Survival to my Captor'

The remarkable story of a Japanese POW camp prisoner.

Last month, in an article for the Daily Express, John Baxter, former Royal Engineers corporal, wrote of the unlikely friendship between himself and Japanese guard Hyato Hirano which was forged whilst John was held as a Prisoner of War in Indonesia. He touchingly details how Hirano showed John and his fellow PoWs kindness and generosity despite his position as their captor.

This article illustrates but one chapter of John Baxter's fascinating story. The full story is in Missing, Believed Killed, Baxter's full account of his experience written without a hint of bitterness as, by his own admission he has 'no resentment towards the Japanese', despite his maltreatment.

His story begins in 1942 when John was captured by the Japanese in Indonesia. For the next 3 years he was held as their prisoner, during which time he was starved and beaten and contracted malaria, diphtheria, for which he received no treatment. At one point he was given a fifty-fifty chance of surviving and moved to an isolation cell where he was kept awake at night by the sound of coffins being made for fellow prisoners who had not been so 'lucky'. He spent the last two years of the war working in the hard labour mines in Kyushu, from where he witnessed the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki 40 miles away, and felt the scorching wind from the blast. Remarkably, John Baxter survived these experiences and made it back to Britain- a journey which was an adventure in itself. In February 2009 he celebrated his 90th birthday. Having written up his diaries from this time, he now decided to tell his story. It is a story not just of survival but of ingenuity, resourcefulness and quiet heroism.

John's fascinating account of one man's attempts to sabotage the Japanese war effort is illustrated with contemporary photographs and artefacts from his time in the camps. This touching book will appeal to WW2 historians and the general reader.

For the full Daily Express article please visit, and to purchase please go to

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