All these years later, the railway men still do not sleep soundly. Every three months or so, the same two nightmares haunt Fred Seiker. In the first, a Japanese guard in a PoW camp thrusts a rifle in his face. He is tied down with barbed wire as the guard forces water into his mouth through a hose. When his stomach expands, another guard jumps on it.
In the second, he is tied to a tree for days for stealing a can of fruit, and made to look at a bucket of water, placed just out of reach.
These nightmares are not the imaginings of his subconscious; both punishments were inflicted on Mr Seiker, and hundreds of his fellow prisoners of war. They were robbed of their dreams, and almost everything else, by the “Death Railway”, the line devised by Japan’s Imperial Army at the height of the Second World War to transport troops and supplies from Bangkok to Burma.
As chronicled in the classic Fifties film Bridge on the River Kwai, they found a ready supply of labour in the prisoners captured when Singapore and the Indonesian islands fell in 1942. They were forced to heave weighty sleepers across the jungle and shunt huge mounds of earth. The line was completed in just a year, but it cost the lives of some 13,000 prisoners of war and as many as 100,000 native labourers. One man died for every sleeper laid.
The Burma campaign is known as the Forgotten War, lost in a relentless focus on the Western Front. If only Mr Seiker could forget... (read more at: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11167561/Scars-of-the-Burma-railway-trauma-that-never-healed.html)