137th Division Field Regiment
Tribute In the Express
By Levi Winchester
One of the last war heroes forced to work on Death Railway Bridge on River Kwai has died
Harry Williams, 96, was made to work on the bridge after being captured by the Japanese in the Second World War and held as a prisoner of war for three-and-a-half years.
The bridge was part of 250 miles of track built, in Thailand, by 250,000 labourers - more than 100,000 of which tragically died.
Mr Williams, who was married to wife Elsie, 94, for 75 years, tragically passed away on January 4th 2015 at the age of 96.
Devastated son, Malcolm, 65, said he was "so proud" of his father and said he will be "sorely missed".
He added: "My dad never said a lot about the war but the few tales he did tell us were incredible.
"I think he just wanted to block it all out as some of the treatment he received was absolutely horrific.
"I have no idea how he survived such brutal conditions for three-and-a-half years - the conditions and abuse he and so many others put up with are beyond belief.
Mr Williams in the 137th Division Field Regiment Royal Artillery Blackpool
"He was covered in scars from where he had been hit with sticks and he had a really nasty mark on his leg where he had to cut himself to get rid of poison after being bitten by a snake.
"My dad never bragged about any of it - he was always very humble just like his fellow soldiers and preferred to keep himself to himself.
"He's a very inspiring man and we're all so proud of him and what he achieved - he will be sorely missed by everyone who knew him."
Mr Williams, from Bolton, Greater Manchester, married his wife Elsie, who currently lives in a nursing home, on August 3, 1940, after the pair met while working at Walkers Tannery in Great Lever.
The father-of-two had enlisted on October 10, 1939, at the age of 21, and joined the 137th Division Field Regiment Royal Artillery Blackpool.
He was eventually sent to Singapore to fight the Japanese, but was captured after the bombing of Pearl Harbour in 1941 and forced to work on the Burma Railway - later dubbed the Death Railway.
The war veteran was subjected to horrific abuse and suffered regular beatings from ruthless Japanese guards, but he survived the torture and was eventually returned to the UK in October, 1945.
After the war, he worked as a leather worker and an engineer and had two children, five grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He retired in the mid 1980s.
His health began to deteriorate last year and he was rushed to hospital in December after suffering a number of seizures before being put into Strathmore Nursing Home in Bolton on December 23.
But his condition rapidly declined after suffering a fall, and he sadly died on January 4th 2015.
Father-of-three Malcolm, a retired construction worker, said: "We've found some incredible items since he died including the letter he sent to tell the family that he was a prisoner of war.
"He was really made to suffer - it's unthinkable what he went through. But he never took any nonsense when he was back home - he was a very stubborn man.
"He must have been one of, if not the last British survivor. My dad attended a lot of meetings where he would meet up with survivors but they stopped about a decade ago because there were so few survivors left.
"I'm just incredibly proud to say he was my father - he will always be a hero."