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Sunday, 12 November, 2000, 14:22 GMT
New benefits for British PoWs
Protesting about the treatment of British veterans and civilians by Japanese soldiers
Campaigning has been intense
The announcement that men and women who were interned by the Japanese in World War II, would receive an ex gratia payment of 10,000 each, is welcome news for the people who will get it. The BBC's Paul Lewis reports.

The long delay in agreeing to make a payment has saved successive governments millions of pounds.

Only around 6000 of the 37,500 British servicemen who returned from the camps are still alive together with an estimated 2400 of the 18,300 civilian internees who survived to 1945.

Remembrance Sunday Veterans Parade March Past
There are an estimated 16,700 potential beneficiaries

If the previous Conservative government had paid up in 1995, when campaigning was intense, an estimated 15,000 ex-servicemen who would have benefited, doubling the 167m cost of the payments.

With ex-prisoners dying at the rate of 10 a week, even the three-year delay by the Blair Government has saved more than 15m.

Every further week that passes before a payment is made will save another 100,000.

Veterans that will benefit

Five groups of people who were interned by the Japanese in World War II will benefit.

  • Members of the British armed forces.
  • Merchant seamen.
  • Civilians
  • Members of the Burmese and Indian Army and those serving in the Colonial forces.
  • Widows and widowers of any of those four categories.

The Government estimates that there are 16,700 potential beneficiaries, though officials of prisoner of war and ex-service organisations say that estimate is too high.

People who have not registered their presence in a camp before, either by claiming a war disablement pension or by joining one of the campaigning organisations, may have to go before a panel, which will include ex-prisoners and internees, to establish their bona fides.

Long wait for compensation

One woman who will get the payment is Thelma Cassell.

Her husband Ken survived three and half years in a labour camp after his ship HMS Exeter was sunk in 1941.

"I am delighted, over the moon. They have worked so hard for this. But I had a little weep. Ken never thought they would get anything. I wish he was here to share it with me."

Ken Cassell died three years ago and it has taken Thelma that long to get her own war widow's pension.

Despite Ken's serious illness (he had tropical diseases, a damaged intestine, and nightmares for fifty years) the War Pensions Agency claimed that his death from a stroke in 1997 was not due to his internment.

After a long appeal process, her claim, which will mean around 150 a week, was finally agreed in August this year.

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See also:

07 Nov 00 | UK Politics
PoWs to receive 'debt of honour'
31 Oct 00 | UK Politics
PoW cash 'by Remembrance Sunday'
12 Nov 00 | Business
War Pensions: Are you eligible?
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