AN old soldier’s dying wish to return the ceremonial military sword he took from a surrendering Japanese general has been fulfilled.
The family of the late Lieutenant Colonel William “Bill” Weightman paid an emotional final farewell to the sword before it was shipped to the descendants of the man he had taken it from at the end of the Second World War.
Valerie Weightman and daughters Caroline, Alison and Vanessa were at the handover at Teikyo University of Japan in Durham, in Durham City, along with Durham Light Infantry (DLI) veterans.
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The handover was made possible by university bursar Michael Daly, who managed to trace the family of Major General Shozaburo Iino.
Lt Col Weightman, of Hurgill Road, Richmond, North Yorkshire, was a lieutenant with D Company the 2nd Battalion when the DLI took the surrender from Maj Gen Iino, the governor of Atjeh, North Sumatra, on December 15, 1945.
Daughter Alison Porter said: “It is quite emotional. It was father’s dying wish that at a suitable time Mr Daly would make sure the sword was returned to the family of the officer who surrendered it to father.”
Mr Daly said: “I last visited Lt Col Weightman at his home in January 2009, a few weeks before he died.
“He passed me the sword and gave me the task of locating a member of the Japanese general’s family.
“We finally located his daughter and grandson and they are extremely pleased to accept the sword back to the family. So we shall all have complied with Col Bill’s last wish and I am absolutely delighted.”
In his last letter, Lt Col Weightman wrote to Mr Daly: “The general gave lifelong service to his emperor and to Japan. He fought in Manchuria and in China.
“The awards were on his uniform, including the 1st Class Order of the Golden Eagle/Kite.
“The Tsuba (strap) was loose when presented, but is easily repaired in Japan.
“The sword was presented with honour, received with honour and cared for with great dignity. It is now to be safely returned to the Iino family in Japan.”
Lt Col Weightman wrote that the sword had been forged by a famous swordsmith in 1624 in the Oita prefecture – though this has to be verified.
University principal Noboru Nakayama said the sword would be sent to Maj Gen Iino’s daughter, Mitsu Yamanaka, 91, and her son, Jun, who were delighted.
Colonel William Albert Weightman, above, who was born at Middle Herrington Farm, near Sunderland, and died aged 83 in January 2009, was a good rugby player for Durham School.
Despite winning a place at Trinity College, Cambridge, he joined the Army, against his father’s wishes, at the age of 18 during the height of the Second World War.
He served in the Durham Light Infantry in the Pacific, where he saw action in Malaya, Sumatra and Burma, where he helped rescue a group of nuns.
After the war he served with the Parachute Regiment and the RAF regiment, with whom he saw action in Suez, Jordan, Cyprus and Aden, where he was mentioned in dispatches.
He also helped to train the Sultan of Oman before taking charge of the Yorkshire Army Cadet Force.
He worked with the Burma Campaign Fellowship, which helped to reconcile veterans and their families on both sides of the conflict