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PoWs mark Armistice at River Kwai

A group of former prisoners of war who have returned to the Far East to revisit the locations where they were held during the Second World War will mark Armistice Day tomorrow near the bridge over the River Kwai.

The group of former PoWs, who are all in their 90s, will attend the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery close to the site of the Thai-Burma railway camp.

They include six Far East veterans, and a number of wives and widows, all being accompanied by relatives and assistants on a journey around Thailand and Singapore to mark Remembrance week.

Jim Crossan, 96, from Lytham St Annes in Lancashire, and the oldest veteran on the tour, was a PoW for three and a half years.

He said: ''I have no doubt it will be emotional, it will tear my heartstrings.''

But he said part of it would help his son Robin, 61, who has joined him on the trip, to ''dot the Is and cross the Ts'' in what he knows about his father's life.

Mr Crossan, who served in the Royal Army Service Corps, was captured on February 15 1942, just 10 days after he arrived.

He was among tens of thousands of British troops taken prisoner when the Battle of Singapore, from February 8 to 15 1942, resulted in the capture of Singapore by the Japanese.

It was the largest surrender of British-led military personnel in history, with about 80,000 British, Indian and Australian troops becoming PoWs, adding to tens of thousands already taken prisoner earlier in the war.

''We wondered how it would ever end,'' Mr Crossan said. ''To begin with there was all sorts of rumours flying around, but these originated to keep morale up.

''You tried not to think about home because you weren't sure if you would see it again.''

He was moved from Singapore to Thailand in October 1942, where he helped build the Thai-Burma railway - known as the Death Railway because of the number of men who died building it - and was there at the same time as Eric Lomax, about whom a film is due to be released.

Mr Crossan, who had worked in Glasgow before the war, finally returned in 1945 and found that his then-girlfriend, who was to become his wife, had waited for him despite not knowing if he would ever return.

''It was a miracle the two atomic bombs ending the war,'' he said. ''It ended a lot of misery, and helped those of us who needed to get home.''

The trip, under the umbrella of Remembrance Travel, the Royal British Legion's travel arm, is being partly funded by The Big Lottery Heroes Return scheme.


From Belfast Telegraph