Sticky Dewi on the Burma Railway Had Its Lighter Moments, Even for the Prisoners; BOOK: World War II Veterans Recall Incidents That Amused Them

Article excerpt

Byline: ROBIN TURNER

MEMORIES of the lighter side of life in Far East prisoner-of-war camps have been compiled in a book by Welsh author Patricia Clements.

One of the stars of Sticky Dewi, whose ironic title is a corruption of the Japanese word for first aid, is 77-year-old Jack Endicott, of Pyle.

He is one of the youngest survivors of the enforced labour on the Burma Railway during World War II, made famous by the film Bridge on the River Kwai.

Rhondda-born Mr Endicott, who became a collier after the war, joined the Merchant Navy at 14 and while in Sydney jumped ship with some pals and joined the Australian Army.

He was still a teenager when he was captured as the Japanese overran Batan.

Mr Endicott recalls how a Japanese guard who had seen a picture of guards in a sentry box outside Buckingham Palace called on the British and Australian PoWs to make one for him.

"We did our best to make him a box out of spare bits of wood and the odd nail here and there, " he said. "We set it up for him and he bristled with pride as he walked into it. Then he disappeared down the 6ft hole we had placed it over.

"We all scarpered, knowing that the Japanese couldn't recognise one white face from another and almost certain he would not make a fuss because the Japanese did not like to be humiliated. We were right. He said nothing."

Mr Endicott remembers that on the first day he was sent to work on the Burma Railway Japanese guards were laying out hundreds of basic tools for the POWs to work with the next day.

"When we woke up the next morning all the tools had been nicked. It was the Aussies. They had sold them to natives in the middle of the night.

"We all had a good laugh about that one. In fact, having a sense of humour kept you going. If I couldn't have switched off from what was happening I'd be dead now."

While happy to recall the amusing incidents for the book, Mr Endicott knows only too well the terrible toll of the Burma Railway.

He said, "There were burials every single day.

"I remember one guard in particular. We were terrified of even asking him if we could go to the toilet.

"People would ask him if they could go and he would signify it was OK then he would shoot them in the back, claiming they had tried to run away. A lot of Aussies died like that."

The veteran says he is not bitter about what happened, however.

"I forgave them the day after the war ended, " he said. "As far as I was concerned that was the end of it. We were in a war.

"A lot of men feel differently but I went through it and I wanted to forget it afterwards. I don't bear a grudge."

Mr Endicott spent three months in a recuperation camp in Bangkok and had to have skin grafts on both legs. …