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During the Second World War, British soldier Harry Motteram endured diabolical conditions as a prisoner of war. During the three years he spent in a Japanese camp he was forced to work on the 258 mile “Death Railway”. During that time he lived on just one cup of rice a day that provided virtually no nutrition to get him through his 18 hour shifts.
When he finally returned home after the war he became a plumber and married a lady called Eileen, together they bore six children. Harry carried on working until he was 86 and lived to become a great grandfather.
Six years ago this brave solider returned to Thailand to see part of the railway that he helped to build. It is thought that he was the last member of the 137th Field Regiment, also known as the Blackpool regiment. He died at 94 from cancer.
The Burma Railway as built between Ban Pong in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Burma by Japan in 1943 to support its forces in the Burma campaign using forced labor. More than one hundred and eighty thousand Asian civilian labourers worked on the railway alongside more than sixty thousand Allied prisoners of war. The project nicknamed Death Railway claimed the lives of around ninety thousand civilians and over twelve thousand Allied POW’s including over six thousand British, nearly three thousand Australians over two and a half thousand Dutch and over one hundred Americans.
The heroic men who built the railway inspired the film Bridge over the River Kwai with Alec Guiness and Jack Hawkins.