Jack Jennings, a British prisoner of conflict throughout World Warfare II who labored as a slave laborer on the Burma Railway, the roughly 250-mile Japanese navy building venture that impressed a novel and the Oscar-winning movie “The Bridge on the River Kwai,” died this month in St. Marychurch, England. He was 104.
They mentioned they believed their father was the final survivor of the estimated 85,000 British, Australian and Indian solders who have been captured when the British colony of Singapore fell to Japanese forces in February 1942.
A non-public within the 1st Battalion Cambridgeshire Regiment, Mr. Jennings spent the subsequent three-and-half years as a prisoner of conflict, first in Changi jail in Singapore after which in primitive camps alongside the route of the railway between Thailand and Burma (now Myanmar).
To construct bridges, Mr. Jennings and at the least 60,000 P.O.W.s — and hundreds extra native prisoners — have been compelled to chop down and debark bushes, noticed them into half-meter lengths, dig and carry earth to construct embankments, and drive piles into the bottom.
In his 2011 memoir, “Prisoner With no Crime,” Mr. Jennings described the harmful means of driving the piles, utilizing a heavy weight raised by the boys to the highest of a timber body.
“Two males usually guided the pile from a perched state of affairs close to the highest,” he wrote. “This was a sluggish, punishing job, jolting your complete physique when the burden immediately dropped and the pile sank decrease.”
He survived the searing warmth of the Indochinese jungle; a each day weight loss plan of rice, watery gruel and a teaspoon of sugar; and a battery of illnesses: malnutrition, dysentery, malaria and renal colic. He developed a leg ulcer that required pores and skin grafts, which have been carried out with out anesthesia.
“No less than 15 troopers died every day of malaria and cholera,” Mr. Jennings advised the British newspaper The Mirror in 2019. “I keep in mind sitting in camp simply counting the times I had left to reside. I didn’t suppose I’d ever get out of there alive.”
The brutality inflicted by Japanese troopers was at the least as dangerous in the course of the railway work because it was within the camps.
“For those who weren’t working like they thought it’s best to, you’d get a stick or the butt of a rifle,” he added. “However I needed to preserve going. I had a buddy who slept subsequent to me. I awoke one morning and he was lifeless.” 4 males who tried to flee have been beheaded.
“My feeling for the Japanese guards who have been with us, and all who allowed them to commit such barbaric crimes, stays the identical,” Mr. Jennings wrote. “I’ll by no means forgive or neglect.”
Amid these torturous situations, Mr. Jennings, who had labored as a wooden joiner in England, carved a chess set out of wooden he discovered within the camps, utilizing a pen knife. He carried the chess items house.
Jack Jennings was born on March 10, 1919, and grew up in West Midlands, England. His father died of most cancers when Jack was 8; his mom, who had labored in a foundry earlier than she had youngsters, took in laundry to earn cash after her husband’s dying. She additionally picked hops in the course of the summer season, together with Jack and his sisters.
At his mom’s request, Jack left faculty at 14 to earn cash for the household. He fared poorly as an workplace trainee earlier than discovering his métier at an area joinery works. He finally enrolled in lessons in cupboard making at an area artwork school.
Mr. Jennings was drafted into the British Military in 1939 and, after prolonged coaching, traveled by boat to Singapore, arriving in January 1942. The British Military was quickly overwhelmed by the Japanese and surrendered Singapore on Feb. 15.
“They knew the place to strike, and strike exhausting,” he wrote in his memoir, including that “there was nowhere to cover or to retreat to. We have been trapped, civilians and troopers.”
The Japanese herded about 500 troopers, most of them from the Cambridgeshire regiment, onto a tennis court docket. At every nook a Japanese soldier stood guard with a machine gun. The prisoners drank soiled water and ate “exhausting Military biscuits and ration chocolate” tossed at them by their captors, Mr. Jennings wrote.
After 5 days, they have been marched to Changi jail and later to jail camps that the prisoners themselves needed to hack out of the jungle. Mr. Jennings mentioned he spent his time constructing bridges and being handled for his sicknesses. An estimated 12,000 to 16,000 P.O.W.s died throughout building of the railway. Many civilian prisoners perished as effectively.
Mr. Jennings realized of the Japanese give up in August 1945 from leaflets dropped in a jail camp that mentioned, “To All Allied Prisoners of Warfare: The Japanese Forces Have Surrendered Unconditionally and the Warfare is Over.”
He arrived house in October and, two months later, married his girlfriend, Mary. Three days later, he celebrated his first Christmas along with his household in six years.
In 1954, Pierre Boulle, a former French soldier and undercover agent who had served in China, Burma and Indochina, printed “The Bridge Over the River Kwai,” a novel in regards to the building of a bridge by Allied prisoners. It was turned into a film in 1957 starring Alec Guinness, because the delusional colonel answerable for the British prisoners at a Japanese jail camp, and William Holden, as an American Navy commander who escapes the camp and joins a commando mission to destroy the bridge. The film, directed by David Lean, gained seven Oscars, together with for greatest image.
Full data on survivors moreover Mr. Jennings’ daughters was unavailable.
Mr. Jennings wrote his memoir within the early Nineties, though it might not be printed till years later. He made a number of journeys again to Singapore and Thailand.
One in every of them, in 2012, was paid for by Britain’s Nationwide Lottery, which produced a TV commercial that includes Mr. Jennings for a marketing campaign known as “Life Altering.”
In it he seems to stroll slowly along with his cane by means of a jungle battle scene, which fades right into a go to to a cemetery for the Allied troopers who died throughout building of the railway.
In an interview for the Nationwide Lottery, Mr. Jennings mentioned that the Thailand he visited was “fully completely different” from the one he remembered. “So the previous desires simply light, you already know — so I used to be fairly stunned and relieved,” he mentioned. “The place can be a good vacationer space now.”