Results 1 to 9 of 9
  1. #1
    Mid
    Mid is offline
    Thailand Expat
    Mid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Last Online
    @
    Posts
    1,413

    Vale : Reg Twigg

    The last Brit on the River Kwai: Reg Twigg, one of the few remaining survivors of the Death Railway, died last week - but the story he left behind will stay with you forever
    11 May 2013

    It was known, for good reason, as the Death Railway. In 1942, after the fall of Singapore, the Japanese army ordered the construction of a jungle railroad from Bangkok to Rangoon to support its assault on India.

    Almost 260 miles of track were built by a forced labour workforce consisting of 250,000 local men and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war, whose treatment at the hands of the Japanese was brutal. More than 16,000 prisoners of war and an estimated 90,000 Asian labourers died.

    As one of the last remaining survivors, 99-year-old Reg Twigg wrote a remarkable personal testimony of his three years of hell on the River Kwai. Sadly, the former private in the Leicestershire Regiment died last week and never lived to see it published.


    The Bridge from Hell: Prisoners of War lay sleepers on the Death Railway at River Kwai


    Today The Mail on Sunday publishes an extract from his compelling and often harrowing account of life on the Burma Railway.

    By Reg Twigg

    They called him the Silver Bullet. Where did the name come from? His uniform shone with polished leather and shiny metal buttons. He would kill without a second thought. He was Korean and he strutted the camp with all the megalomania that war and prison camps bring out in some people.

    I knew the score. Keep your head up. Avoid eye contact. Don’t get yourself noticed. The Bullet couldn’t have been taller than 4ft 10in and I suppose it rankled to look up into prisoners’ faces – watching for a sign of defiance.

    And then he found one, a massive, bearded Sherwood Forester. The Bullet smashed his fist into his nose. Then I watched the Sherwood Forester draw his right fist back and hammer it into the Korean’s face. The guard fell to the dust.

    The Forester had just signed his own death warrant. He knew it. We all knew it. He stood to attention staring ahead. It was quite magnificent in its way. He said in that one perfectly aimed punch: ‘How’s that for bushido [warrior spirit], you yellow bastard?’

    The rest of us stood, backs straight, heads up, as though a man was not being beaten to death at our feet. We all knew the score. A man was going to die because he’d loosened a few Korean teeth. If we’d intervened, we’d all have died. That was how the system worked.


    Revisit: Regg Twigg returned to the River Kwai where he suffered through the horrific PoW slave labour during World War II


    Out there, somewhere to the west, was a world I once knew. My dad would be in the City Arms, sipping warm Ansells and wondering why I hadn’t written.

    Putting a brave face on it counted for nothing now. Nobody knew where we were: there’s something appallingly lonely about that.

    I’d been taken prisoner on the morning of February 15, 1942. A grim-faced officer told me: ‘It’s all over, Twigg. We’re surrendering. Remain at your post and don’t let anyone take or destroy any military property.’

    That sums up the double-think of the British Army. Who else would take military property but the Japanese Imperial Army? I took armfuls of rifles and dumped them in the sea. General Arthur Percival signed the surrender papers that same night.

    We were herded into a central square and thousands of us were marched to Changi prison, the route lined by civilians. The mightiest empire in the world had gone not with a bang, but a whimper.

    After seven months, we were packed, standing room only, into boiling, stinking cattle trucks and taken up-country for three days and nights, then marched through the jungle at riflepoint.


    Tormentor: Brutal Lieutenant Usuki, the 'Konyo Kid'

    Then up-river in rickety bamboo boats to Konyo camp, and an A-framed hut made of bamboo and rattan. There were no chairs or cupboards, just hard bamboo beds raised from the damp earth floor.

    The Japs called ‘tenko’, or roll call, for a pep talk from one of the most vicious of the ‘little yellow bastards’ I was ever to meet.

    He stood 5ft tall, his face lean and dark, his eyes expressionless.

    He told us, in broken English, that his name was Lieutenant Usuki. To us he became the Konyo Kid.

    Our task, he told us, was to clear the jungle and prepare the ground for a railway.

    ‘All will work,’ he spat as he strutted. ‘Including officers.’

    A polite voice said: ‘May I remind the camp commander that under the Geneva Convention, officers do not have to work .  .  . and we will not do so.’ I had to admire him.

    The Kid’s eyes narrowed. Bushido does not tolerate loss of face. He screamed until the veins stood out on his forehead.

    Then came a slap. A punch followed, then the Kid called in the heavies. Rifle butts thudded into stomach, jaw and temple. Boots crashed into the officer’s prone body.

    We all felt like cheering when he stood to attention again, bleeding and trembling with shock, but soldier still.

    The Kid stepped back and screamed for the parade to move. Time to work.

    I had no idea about how to build a railway and neither, it seemed, did the Japanese. We were given blunt axes to clear thickets of bamboo, each made of at least a dozen stems about 14 inches in diameter. The dull blades bounced off as if the bamboo was made of iron. We had hoes to break up the ground and shovels to move the soil. Below the topsoil, solid roots. The yellow clay was unyielding and soul-destroying.

    We dragged the tangle of weeds away in woven baskets and hauled at rocks with our bare hands, the skin of our fingers cut to ribbons. We worked in silence because the Japs allowed no talking.

    Rest periods and water were strictly limited: calluses and blisters simply had to be tolerated. A piece of bamboo, ten to fifteen feet long, is bloody heavy. We had to carry them two at a time to clear the jungle.

    First you try one under each arm. That doesn’t work. So you lay them across your shoulders like a yoke, too painful, so you try something else, carrying them like a baby across your chest.

    I started to carry just one, but a Jap screamed at me and jabbed his two fingers into my eyes. I picked up the bamboo and dashed back for another one. I never made that mistake again.


    On-screen horror: A still from the 1957 film The Bridge on the River Kwai, starring Alec Guinness


    The guards watched us constantly. If we weren’t ‘speedo’ enough, they’d slap us around the face: three, four, five times. Show defiance and the slaps become punches, a little yellow bastard snarling gibberish in your face. Then the boots go in. You curl up on the ground. The rifle butts slam into your head and if you’re lucky, you’ll pass out. If not, it’s back to work.
    By the end of the first week at Konyo, I’d come to a decision: escape was impossible, but I was going to survive. Darwinists call it the survival of the fittest, I’d call it survival of the most selfish bastards imaginable.

    I began to focus on the jungle as a fascinating new friend. The floor was alive. Frogs the size of guinea pigs struck up their interminable noise along the river bank as soon as night fell. Centipedes were six inches long. I never counted the types of snake: some were poisonous, especially the ones with bright colours, and you learned to watch out for them and keep away.

    The brown, sluggish river drew everybody like a magnet. We’d soak in it after a gruelling day’s work. We drank it, boiling it at first when we had the opportunity but afterwards not giving a damn. We bathed in it, peed in it, relaxed in it and cooked our rice with it. We lived alongside it, built bridges across it. And buried our dead along its banks.

    Like most, I wore a ‘Jap-happy’ loincloth and became all but indistinguishable from the locals. My hair was crawling with lice and my skin had tanned to the colour of old leather. I had no choice but to go barefoot. It hurt like hell at first, but my soles hardened.

    Weeks passed. We’d cleared a swathe through the jungle and levelled the ground. The rocks now had to be shattered to make an embankment. We loaded our baskets with stones, struggled up the slope barefoot and threw them on the pile. Then we had to flatten the top and prepare it for sleepers and track.


    Rail of horror: More than 16,000 prisoners of war and an estimated 90,000 Asian labourers died during the construction of the jingle railroad from Bankok to Burma


    I stole to stay alive. There was a metal skip behind the Jap cookhouse full of dried fish. At night, with the Japs relaxing, I had the place to myself. I lifted the rough matting over the top and grabbed two pieces of fish, shoving them down my Jap-happy.

    I retraced my steps, strolling slowly as if I was still taking the night air. Back in the hut, I lay down on my bed. I grinned and ferreted in my loincloth, hauling out the fish.

    The pace of work became impossible. Men who couldn’t stand for tenko sat on their bamboo beds. You knew by their eyes that they’d got nothing left.

    They were walking skeletons. Worked-out wrecks, often younger than me, worked to death by the sheer, blind inhumanity of the Japanese. We were slaves. With no rights, no honour, no feelings. It’s terrifying, at first, to watch a man die. But you get used to anything.

    Survivor On The River Kwai, by Reg Twigg, is published by Viking at £16.99. To order your copy at the special price of £14.99 with free p&p, call the Mail Book Shop on 0844 472 4157 or visit mailbookshop.co.uk.

    dailymail.co.uk

  2. #2
    Member
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Last Online
    08-10-2015 @ 09:33 AM
    Posts
    249
    RIP Mr Twigg.

  3. #3
    Thailand Expat
    Latindancer's Avatar
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Last Online
    Yesterday @ 06:10 PM
    Location
    Australia
    Posts
    11,801
    My next door neighbour from years ago was there on the railroad, but he was lucky....he was a cook. He too said that the Koreans were more brutal than the Japanese.
    Mr Twigg had a pretty good innings, at 99 years.

  4. #4
    Newbie
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Last Online
    20-05-2013 @ 05:32 PM
    Posts
    4
    Reg was my grandad. I was lucky enough to go back with him to the bridge in 2006 (I took the pic of him above). He was a unique character. The church was full for the service on Friday. There's even a mention in the back of his book of the time I took him to Soi Cowboy!

  5. #5
    R.I.P
    Mr Lick's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2009
    Last Online
    25-09-2014 @ 02:50 PM
    Location
    Mountain view
    Posts
    40,028
    Of the GBU which one are you Arch?


    Sorry to hear of your grandfather's recent demise although having suffered greatly during WW2, 99 is a fine achievement. You must feel very proud of Reg.

  6. #6
    Newbie
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Last Online
    20-05-2013 @ 05:32 PM
    Posts
    4
    I'm def the Ugly.

    Yep, very proud. He was in ridiculous good health until 3-4 years ago. I remember watching him do 20 leg raises and 12 press-up when he was well into his 90s. He always spoke very highly of the Thai people and the way they helped the POWs too

  7. #7
    Gohills flip-flops wearer
    withnallstoke's Avatar
    Join Date
    Oct 2008
    Last Online
    13-09-2019 @ 11:36 PM
    Location
    The Felcher Memorial Home.
    Posts
    14,273
    RIP Mr. Twigg, and thankyou for your sacrifices.

  8. #8
    Mid
    Mid is offline
    Thailand Expat
    Mid's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2007
    Last Online
    @
    Posts
    1,413
    Quote Originally Posted by ArchStanton View Post
    Reg was my grandad. I was lucky enough to go back with him to the bridge in 2006 (I took the pic of him above). He was a unique character. The church was full for the service on Friday. There's even a mention in the back of his book of the time I took him to Soi Cowboy!
    Thank you very much for posting .

  9. #9
    Member richie22's Avatar
    Join Date
    Sep 2008
    Last Online
    19-11-2013 @ 05:54 PM
    Location
    rawai phuket
    Posts
    325
    Lest We Forget.
    R.I.P Reg

Thread Information

Users Browsing this Thread

There are currently 1 users browsing this thread. (0 members and 1 guests)

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •