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Source 3 - Treatment of servicemen and prisoners of war, 1943

This will was written on 26 January 1943 in a Japanese prisoner-of-war camp at Haito, Taiwan, on behalf of Private James Bain, who was too ill to write himself, but was evidently thinking of his wife Mary’s future. It bears the official stamps and finger prints of the Japanese and British officers who witnessed it. Bain died a few weeks later, on 2 April 1943. His remains were transferred to Hong Kong in 1946. Over a quarter of Allied prisoners died in Japanese captivity.


James Bain’s will

NAS: SC70/8/1334/512


I, James Bain….Private, The Gordon Highlanders, at present prisoner of war, hereby declare that this cancels all previous wills and is my last will and testament. I appoint my wife, Mary Kennedy Bain, of 31 Lady Burn Street, Greenock, to be the executrix of this my will.

I bequeath the whole of my estate and such monies as I may possess or be able to dispose of at the time of my death to my wife Mary Kennedy Bain.

Witness my hand this twenty sixth day of January, nineteen hundred and forty three at the Prisoner of War Camp, Haito, Taiwan.

Written by me, John Montresor Montresor, Major, Royal Engineers, as the testator is unable to write.



1.The impact of war on families
Having studied Private Bain’s will, how does it make you feel?
Discuss your reactions in groups or pairs and write 2-3 paragraphs summarising your views on the impact of war.

Consider the following points

• Families are split up when members join the forces
• War brings uncertainty, fear, anxiety and hardship
• War can divide family loyalties
• Civilians are the innocent victims of war


Group discussion topics
1. Is war right or wrong?

The philosophers Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill advocated Utilitarianism and the belief that an action is right if it and its consequences produce the greatest good for the greatest number of people.



Immanuel Kant took a different view in deciding if an action is right or wrong. He advocated rational behaviour, the strength of motive behind people’s actions and the strength of universal rules that would govern society’s treatment of fellow human beings as respected and valued individuals.

Select one of the theories, Utilitarianism and Kantism and list two arguments to support or to oppose the statement above.

Points to consider:

• Short and long term consequences of war
• Duty is a sound motive for action
• Putting yourself before others
• The rights of the citizen

2. The Geneva and Hague Conventions and the United Nations have made little impact on peace in the world as major conflicts continue to this day.

To help you in your discussion, visit background information on the Geneva and Hague Conventions and the United Nations.