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Motoyama Japan: Seeing History as it Happenedicon for Recommended story

by The Fernhurst Centre

Contributed by 
The Fernhurst Centre
People in story: 
Brenig Jones
Location of story: 
Motoyama - Japan
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
29 July 2004

This is Brenig Jones's story: it has been added by Pauline Colcutt (on behalf of the Fernhurst Centre) with permission from the author who understands the terms and conditions of adding his story to the website. The story has been translated from Welsh.

The atom bomb

Recently I saw a television programme showing the United States preparing and carrying the atomic bomb which was to be dropped on one of the cities of Japan. This brought memories flooding back of my time as a prisoner of war in Japan and being forced to work as a miner in a Japanese coal mine. This was ironic as my father was a coal miner in the Rhondda Valley and he was determined that not one of his four sons should go down the mine — and there was I working as a collier.

On the morning of 6 August 1945 I was in my bed, as I had been on the night shift. Well not a bed as we think of it but a blanket on the floor. I must say that the floor as in every Japanese house consisted of straw mats about an inch and a half thick, an ideal place for bed bugs to breed.

On this particular morning a pal of mine woke me and told me to come outside to see what was happening. Our camp was on the coast and looking out over the sea we could see an enormous cloud in the distance rising to the heavens. It continued to rise as we watched — with the top of the cloud flowing outwards like a big mushroom or toadstool. I stood there in astonishment with my friends. What was happening? An explosion in an ammunition dump or chemical factory?

I went back to my bed none the wiser. When we went down the mine that night it was obvious that the Japanese who were supervising us were no better informed than we were.

Motoyama Japan — 15 August 1945

Another working day. Out of bed at 5am, breakfast — a small bowl of rice and then off to the mine. Underground we had to walk for about three quarters of an hour to the coal face. Normally half way in we would meet the night shift on their way out and we would have a brief chat with them to see what had happened on that night. But on this particular morning they had more to say.

The attitude of the Japanese on the night shift had been unusual — there had been no pressure to get the work done and they had been busy talking amongst themselves and were not prepared to say what was troubling them.

When we arrived at our place of work the Japanese were not prepared to talk to us and Roland Pilcher (a fellow prisoner), who had learnt quite a bit of Japanese, was unable to get any answers to his enquiries. What was the problem? I must say we had an easy day and didn't fill much coal.

On the way back to the pit bottom at the end of the shift we expected to meet up with the afternoon shift to find out what was happening on the surface — but the afternoon shift did not turn up. When we got to the surface the guards were unusually keen to get us back to camp. Arriving there we found our friends at the entrance obviously waiting to tell us something. No checking up by the Jap guards — simply the Japanese word for dismiss. I went towards my pals to hear that an armistice had been agreed between the Allies and the Japanese.

I went back to my room and sat on the floor with my pals - everyone very quiet and few words spoken. Perhaps everyone was thinking the same as me, that this was only an armistice and war could restart anytime. Usually the first thing I did after returning to camp was to go for a wash and to get out of my working clothes, but this day all I wanted to do was to sit quietly and think. Everything going through the mind and thinking of going home to the fore. Later in the evening the eight of us in our room began to relax - no rush to get some sleep as there was no work tomorrow and soon the conversation came round to food and what we were looking forward to - steak, chips and peas were high on the menu and rice on the bottom.

During the next few days our officers put pressure on the Japanese and the first thing we had were Red Cross parcels - one between two. Real food at last - even three or four spoons of Nestlé's Condensed Milk or half a tin of corned beef on a bowl of rice was a feast.

The next thing was to get rid of the Jap Guards and our own officers taking charge and mounting a guard on the camp entrance duly armed with pick shafts. We were back in the army. Someone then acquired a radio and it was then that we heard that some days previously the Americans had dropped an atomic bomb on Hiroshima. This is what we had witnessed when we saw the enormous cloud rising high into the sky. The Japanese had surrendered and the war was over.

We also heard on the radio that it was necessary for every prisoner of war camp to indicate their location. We did this by painting the letters POW on the cook-house roof. This sign paid dividends the following day.

At this stage I have to admit that I am glad that the atomic bomb came when it did. Life as a prisoner was getting more difficult as our food ration was getting smaller and we were getting weaker all the time. I dread to think what would have happened if Japan had continued to fight and the Americans would have been forced to invade Japan. But before invading the Americans would have bombed Japan almost into submission before taking the final step of an invasion. We had experienced American bombing at our previous camp in the mining village of Ube where they had fire bombed the village. The following morning all that was left of the village was our camp - the rest of the village had been burnt to the ground. Our camp remained because the Jap officer had allowed us out of the shelter to fight the fires in our camp. Our experience of similar German bombings in the UK stood us in good stead that night.

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These messages were added to this story by site members between June 2003 and January 2006. It is no longer possible to leave messages here. Find out more about the site contributors.

Message 1 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 16 November 2004 by listeningsayonara

This is a message for the person who has written a very interesting article about his experience in a Japanese prisoner of war camp called Motoyama. I am interested in finding out if he can remember the name of the commanding officer of his camp as I am trying to find out where my own father spent four years whilst a prison in Japan (1941-1945). The details you have mentioned about the coal mine seem pertinent but I need more information about your regiment. My father was in the Royal Artillery but I do not know his army number/regimental number. Perhaps you could kindly have more details.


Message 2 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 31 March 2005 by rbrooker

Hi, My name is Richard Brooker.
I have recently returned from a Pilgrimage visit to Japan visiting my grandfathers war grave. He was also with the Royal artillery, and was in a camp in the south of Japan.

There were over 100 pow camps in Japan. If you were able to give me some more information I may be able to help you with your enquiry.

Do e-mail me direct -


Message 3 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 07 June 2005 by johnbounds

Motoyama POW Camp

I have only recently picked up your message of Nov 16th 2004. I was a signalman in the Royal Signals attached to the 6th Heavy Anti Aircraft Regiment. We arrived in Singapore in January 1942 - moved out of there in a hurry before the Japs arrived and went to Palamberg in Sumatra. Again moved when the Japs made a parachute invasion and went to Java. When the Dutch capitulated the British capitulated some days later. After a few months as POWs in Java we were shipped to Japan itself. We worked in the coal mines - the first was in UBE a mining village on the shore of the Inland Sea. In 1945 the village was fire bombed by the Americans. Our camp was one of only two buildings which survived the fire blitz. We were then moved to another mine camp at Motoyama - 20 minutes by electric train from Ube. There were already some POWs in Motoyama so we had to be crowded in. We remained in Motoyama until peace was declared. The officer commanding of the 6th HAA was a colonel Joe Hazell but he was not with us in UBE or MOTOYAMA. Our CO there was a major who had been in command of 15 battery but I cannot remember his name.

Brenig Jones


Message 4 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 28 August 2005 by eagergeorge

G'Day from Australia.
My father was in this camp at the end of the war. He was Gunner Frank Nelson SAXTON 69Bty 21LAA RA.

I have pictures of this camp at the cessation of hostilities.

The SBO Senior British Officer at this time was Major RJS Earle RA.

I would very much like to contact the Welsh gentleman whose story of the end of the war is on this site.

Best Wishes
Paul saxton


Message 5 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 28 August 2005 by eagergeorge

Dear Brenig,

Hope this message finds you. I have just this minute put a message on the site regarding Motoyama.

For some years I have been researching my father's time in captivity.

You may have known my father. It looks from your message that you took a similar route to end up in that camp. He travelled on the Dai Nichi Maru landing at Moji on the 27th November 1942.One of the photos I have of Motoyama is a group shot of about 30 men taken at the end of the war. Do you ever remember being a member of any such group?

After the war these photos were owned by an ex Motoyama POW named Gnr Dursley who came from Wirral in Cheshire.

I would love to hear from you if you can spare me the time. One large gap in my research is how my father got back to the UK after the war.

Best Wishes
Paul Saxton


Message 6 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 17 October 2005 by listeningsayonara

Dear Brenig Jones,
How wonderful to hear about your experiences and maybe to have found someone who can throw some light on my father's. I believe that he was promoted on the battlefield probably from Captain to Major when he was manning an anti-aircraft gun in Java and was buried up to his neck. The regiment was tranferred to Japan where he spent four years in a POW camp. He was or became the commanding officer and his name was Walter Robert Busby. If you remember him, or any information you think that will help me to reconstruct this period in his life, please write to me at: Best regards, Anne


Message 7 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 17 October 2005 by listeningsayonara

Dear Paul Saxton,
I have just read your message to B.Jones about your research and would really like to hear more. I have just recently decided to contribute to the website with respect to my father and can see that my knowledge about his participation in WW2 is very elementary. I only really know that he was captured by the Japanese on Java in 1941/1942 and transferred to a POW camp on Japan (south island). At that time he was in the Royal Artillery and I believe he manned an anti-aircraft gun. He was awarded the Military Cross for his bravery on the field of battle. I know he was or became the commanding officer of one of these POW camps where he spent four terrible years of his life. If you can throw some light on this story, please reply. Best regards, Anne


Message 8 - Motoyama POW Camp

Posted on: 17 October 2005 by listeningsayonara

Dear Paul Saxton,
I have just re-read your message and would be most interested to see the photo you mention. If you would like to send me a copy at my email address, I would be extremely obliged. Best regards, Anne (

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