Soldier William Weightman's sword returned to Japan

Michael Daly and the sword
Image caption University bursar Michael Daly helped trace the general's family in Japan

A soldier's dying wish to return a 400-year-old ceremonial sword he took from a surrendering Japanese general in Sumatra, Indonesia, is to be fulfilled.

Lt Col Bill Weightman was handed the weapon by Maj Gen Shozaburo Iino on December 15, 1945.

The Durham Light Infantry (DLI) soldier took the sword home to Richmond in North Yorkshire.

When Mr Weightman - who died aged 83 in 2009 - was told he had cancer he began trying to trace the general's family.

He passed the weapon on to his friend Michael Daly, the bursar of the Teikyo University of Japan, which is part of Durham University.

'Commit hara-kari'

Mr Daly said: "There was an incredible bitterness that is maintained to this day by a high percentage of Colonel Bill's compatriots towards the Japanese, but he had tremendous compassion and great forgiveness.

"He felt while he lived he was the custodian of what General Iino had given him, he felt obligated to protect that sword."

He added: "Historically, the swords were often used by their owners to commit hara-kari.

"It was only a few months before he died he said: 'I really think I ought to trace the general's family back in Japan'."

The university teamed up with the Japanese consul and managed to trace the general's 91-year-old daughter Mitsu Yamanaka.

The sword was shipped off to her in Tokyo on Thursday.

In a letter to Mr Daly, Mr Weightman wrote: "The sword was presented with honour, received with honour and cared for with great dignity."

Mr Weightman, who later joined the RAF, also worked with the Burma Campaign Fellowship which helped reconcile veterans and their families.

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