Philip Meninsky was an outstanding personality, captivating a vast circle of friends with his warmth, his wisdom and his rare talent as a raconteur.

He was also an outstanding artist, and his death at home in New Malden ends a unique chapter in British art history. For much of his work was done amid unspeakable mental and physical suffering, and provided crucial evidence in the trials of several war criminals.

Philip was born in Fulham in November, 1919. His father Bernard, a distinguished artist with work in all the major UK galleries, had arrived in Britain in 1891 as a babe in arms, fleeing the Ukraine with his Jewish parents.

Philip inherited Bernard's talent, and on leaving school was keen to become a professional artist.

But his father discouraged him, persuading him to train as an accountant instead.

Young Philip hated the work, but soon afterwards war was declared, and he was called up for National Service.

Initially he was posted to Scotland where he met and married Alexanderina MacDonald. Then he was posted to the Far East where, in 1942, he was taken prisoner after the calamitous fall of Singapore, and the surrender of 50,000 troops.

Philip spent the next three-and-a-half years in Japanese slave camps, where some 12,400 of his army comrades died of starvation, disease and appalling brutality by their captors during their enforced labours on the Thai-Burma railway.

Philip recalled working 12 hours a day with only a cup of rice and a splash of vegetable stew to eat; of being transported from Singapore to Thailand in a cattle truck, with only one cup of rice and water a day; of prisoners being executed and their severed heads stuck on poles because they had filched cigarettes; of a man racked by dysentry being forced to stand in the burning sun for three days and nights with no food or water before being shot.

Philip, rendered skeletal by starvation, eventually developed huge tropical ulcers on his legs, and was transferred to Chunkai hopsital camp, where there was little food and virtually no medical supplies.

His limbs were saved from amputation by two dedicated Australian doctors, Colonel "Weary" Dunlop and Major Arthur Moon, who carried out makeshift surgery with instruments cobbled together from mess tins, old coins, bits of bamboo and anything else they could find.

Philip had already been making sketches of the horrors of camp life, using materials salvaged from the ruins of a bombed-out school during the surrender of Singapore.

He hid his drawings in the hollow bamboo supports of the prisoners' sleeping platforms, transferring them to a false section put in his rucksack by a fellow prisoner, whenever they had to move on.

His artwork, which would have meant his instant death if discovered by the guards, really came into its own at the hospital camp, where Col Dunlop and Major Moon recruited him to make a record of the ghastly conditions under which they struggled to save lives.

"Disguised as a theatre orderly, my task was to sketch the operations they conducted," Philip said later. "In all I produced 140 horrific drawings which were rolled up, placed in hollow bamboo sticks, wrapped in oilskin, then placed in old ammunition tins which we buried in great secrecy.

"Amazingly we were able to rescue them after the war. I like to think the harrowing pictures I drew in secret helped to keep the memory of those fearful years alive, and finally played their part in shaming the Government into paying compensation."

Initially, survivors were paid a paltry £75. Decades later, after spirited campaigning by Philip and the Labour Camp Survivors Association, the few still alive were given £10,000 each.

Philip was unimpressed.

"What we wanted was payment from the Japanese government, accompanied by a full and genuine apology from the Emperor for the brutality and torture which so many young men from Britain and the Empire endured," he said.

The apology was never forthcoming, a fact which rankled with Philip until his dying day.

After their liberation, the slave camp survivors were sent to India to recuperate, because it was feared their near-death appearance would demoralise the public in Britain.

Philip had been a father-in-waiting when he was posted abroad. When he eventually retured home he met his little daughter, Elaine Olive, for the first time.

In 1947 Alexanderina gave birth to twin boys, and Philip realised he could not support his family on his earnings as an artist. So he became an insurance agent, continuing to paint in his spare time.

His talents were recognised by two well-known Scottish artists, William and Mary Armour, and from 1950 he began exhibiting annually in the major Scottish institutions.

He and Alexanderina eventually divorced, and in 1969 he married Elaine Wells, a well-known Scottish actress and TV personality.

In the 1970s, following his promotion to branch manager, the pair settled in New Malden, where Philip decided to take early retirement to concentrate on painting.

He became president of the Kingston-based Thames Valley Arts club, held exhibitions at Kingston Museum, and began designing sets and costumes for the Masque Dance Theatre Group in Kingston. In 1990 he was appointed official artist to the English National Ballet.

Until a year ago, scarcely a day went by without Philip painting or sketching. But his extraordinary career, which produced literally thousands of works, ended on August 5, 2006, with the death of one of his twins, David.

"He was absolutely distraught, and had a stroke soon afterwards," said the surviving twin, Christopher. "He was bedridden after that and, by strange coincidence, died on August 5 - the first anniversary of David's death."

Christopher added that his father remained deeply scarred by his wartime experiences.

"But he kept his suffering in a separate compartment of his mind," he said. "He was marvellous company, loved by all who knew him. And he was smoking his beloved old pipe until a few hours before his death."

Philip, whose funeral was at Putney Vale Crematorium on August 13, leaves a widow, son and daughter, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.