19 Jan Britain’s ‘last Death Railway survivor’ dies

Written by Mizzima Published in World Read 3256 times
Prisoners-of-war
During World War II, British serviceman Harry Williams endured three years of harsh captivity and hard labour under the Japanese occupation in Thailand. An undated photo of Australian and Dutch prisoners of war at Tarsau in Thailand. The four men are said to be suffering from beri beri. Photo: Wikipedia

Britain’s last known survivor of the notorious World War II Burma Railway has died aged 96, according to the Mirror Online on January 16.

Great-grandfather Mr Harry Williams survived for over three years as a prisoner of war working on the Burma Railway for the Japanese occupying forces after being captured in Singapore in 1942.

Over 90,000 forced labourers reportedly died building the 250-mile railway line linking Thailand with Burma due to the tough conditions, overwork and brutal treatment by the Japanese army. The dead included 6,900 British personnel.

Mr Williams enlisted in the 137th Division Field Regiment Royal Artillery Blackpool in October 1939 at the age of 21 - just weeks after Britain declared war against Germany – and was sent to Singapore. Japan attacked Pearl Harbor in December 1941 and its forces captured the island in February 1942 leading to the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history.

Mr Williams is said to have been put to work building the railway bridge over the Khwae Yai River in Thailand, immortalised in the David Lean movie classic, “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” starring Alec Guinness.

Mr Williams’ treatment by his Japanese captors was horrific, according to his son Mr Malcolm Williams. His body was covered in scars from beatings, he told the newspaper, although his father seldom talked about the trauma he suffered.

Repatriated to the UK in 1945, Mr Williams became a leather worker and engineer. He died on January 4, 2015.

Mr Williams outlived Mr Eric Lomax, a British Army officer, who died aged 93 in 2012. Mr Lomax was well known for the book he wrote about his ordeal in captivity entitled, “The Railway Man,” later made into a movie released in 2013 starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.