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Pat Campbell

Former prisoner of war who worked on the Railway of Death;

Born: January 26, 1920; Died: December 11, 2012.

Pat Campbell, who has died at the age of 92, was one of the dwindling group of Japanese prisoners of war who slaved on the Death Railway between Burma and Thailand during the Second World War.

He was born in Ardrossan, orphaned at an early age and was brought up by a couple in Dumfries, where he was educated at St Joseph's College. After school he became a law apprentice with Dumfries Town Council and continued his career in Edinburgh, Glasgow and the London borough of Bromley.

The war then intervened and he enlisted in the 155th (Lanarkshire Yeomanry) Field Regiment RA, a unit with a reputation for bravery and skill on the battlefield. After training in Lanark and India, he was posted to Malaya. His role was as an observation post assistant, one of a team of three who went far out into the front to look for artillery targets. He had many adventures and close calls.

When the Japanese juggernaut with its hundreds of aircraft and tanks pushed the British down on to the so-called impregnable fortress of Singapore, Mr Campbell was among those captured.

In the dark years to follow, it was his faith that would see him through, a faith that manifested itself in a quiet inner strength and in practical, more tangible ways.

He was one of a group of volunteers who built the chapel at Changi, the notorious POW camp in Singapore. A basic building with a few scraps of primitive furniture, it was deconstructed after the war and taken to Australia, but a copy still stands on the original site.

Mr Campbell attended mass whenever the demands of the arduous Japanese work parties allowed – first at Changi and then at the Great World in Singapore, a former amusement park converted by the Japanese into a POW camp for prisoners working in the godowns, or warehouses, at the docks.

In November1942, he was one of a large group of prisoners moved to the Railway of Death where it has been calculated that one man died for every sleeper laid along the 300-mile length of the line.

He was part of the track- laying gang tasked with carrying and laying the sleepers and railtrack. The days were long, the work was hard and the guards were vicious. Beatings with bamboo poles and rifle butts were a regular occurrence and rations were barely enough to keep the men alive. The Japanese provided no medical assistance and the POW doctors performed miracles with scarcely any supplies.

In one of the camps – Kanyu – where a cutting had to be chiseled through the hillside to provide a pathway for the line, Mr Campbell was reunited for a short time with Father Bourke, a Redemptorist priest from New Zealand he had met earlier in Singapore.

When the camp closed, the priest handed the crucifix he had used at services to Mr Campbell for safe keeping. During the remainder of his time as a POW, he guarded the crucifix along with his other few possessions - a loin cloth, known by the POWs as a jap nappy, a hollowed-out piece of bamboo which he used as a mug, his book on Commonwealth law he had found in the bombed-out streets of Singapore and, most importantly, his prayer book. Earlier this year he donated the crucifix to the Thailand-Burma POW Museum at Kanburi, an area he knew well.

Shortly after his meeting with Father Bourke, Pat was injured while working on the line. The wound to his leg became infected and ulcerated and the usual treatment of scraping away the poisoned flesh with a sharpened spoon was unsuccessful. As a result, he was moved down the line to the so-called hospital camp at Chungkai.

During the subsequent operation on his leg, conducted in primitive conditions and with little anaesthetic, Mr Campbell actually recovered consciousness. In the days and weeks afterwards, with no bandages available, he was reduced to using pages from his Commonwealth Law book. His leg wound gave him trouble for the rest of his life.Against all the odds, Mr Campbell was among about 6000 who survived his ordeal and came back home where he completed his law degree.

His memories of his days as a PoW remained vivid until the end. Earlier this year, he said in an interview: "The guards were very contrary. One day they would beat the men for very little, the next ignore something much worse. Their only concern was finishing the railway line. The guards kept yelling "speedo, speedo".

He was pre-deceased by his wife Mary, whom he married in 1955.

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