Page last updated at 18:42 GMT, Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Guard sends card to WWII prisoner

John Baxter circled
Mr Baxter weighed just over seven-and-a-half stone when released

A World War II veteran from Wiltshire who was held captive by the Japanese regularly receives greeting cards from his former prison camp guard.

John Baxter, 89, from Trowbridge, has just received a card from Hyato Hirano ahead of his 90th on Thursday.

Mr Baxter says he had exchanged Christmas and birthday cards with the 91-year-old since the end of the war.

Grandfather-of-two Mr Baxter was held by the Japanese firstly on Java, and then transferred to mainland Japan.

He remained incarcerated until VJ Day - 15 August 1945 - and was repatriated via Nagasaki where he witnessed the after effects of the atom bomb.

We weren't exactly close friends but we somehow kept in touch
Hyato Hirano

Mr Baxter weighed just over seven-and-a-half stone (47.6kg) and was treated for tuberculosis when he was released, and spent his captive years working in Japanese coal mines in Kyushu.

Both Mr Baxter and Mr Hirano had been electricians which is why they became friends.

Speaking from Japan, Mr Hirano said: "We weren't exactly close friends but we somehow kept in touch by sending letters to one another."

The greeting in Mr Baxter's 90th birthday card reads: "Many happy returns. I am currently spending my days in and out of hospital, but I am well otherwise. I wish you the best of health."

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