COUNTY NEWS: Sussex war veteran, who helped build bridge over river Kwai, dies aged 97

A veteran from Sussex, who was one of the last surviving prisoners of war forced to build the bridge over the river Kwai, has died.

Victor and his wife Pamela in 2011 when they revisited Thailand
Victor and his wife Pamela in 2011 when they revisited Thailand

Victor Vale passed away aged 97 on Remembrance Sunday (November 13).

Felicity James, his granddaughter, paid tribute to him. She said: “We all feel it was very fitting he passed away on Remembrance Sunday as he was always so proud of serving his country. He was one of the last remaining surviving prisoners of war, who helped to build the bridge.”

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Victor was born on June 28, 1919 in Epsom, Surrey, the day the Treaty of Versailles was signed after the First World War. He joined the Army in March 1937, aged 17. He lied about his age so he could serve before he turned 18, joining the East Surrey Regiment.

Victor Vale in his army days

Victor, From Hastings, was sent to China on September 1, 1938 and served there until August 1940 where he was then sent to Singapore and served there until February 14, 1942 when he was declared missing.

Felicity added: “He was found in a Japanese prison camp where he remained until November 1945. During his three years as a prisoner of war he helped to construct the bridge over the river Kwai. When he left the camp in 1945 he weighed under five stone and was relegated from the Army, as all prisoners of war were. He became a dispatch blood driver to continue to aid the war efforts.”

In 2001, Victor returned to Thailand and was awarded with some of the original nuts and bolts from the bridge.

Felicity said: “He wanted to visit the graves of his friends who were not as lucky as him. He did talk much about his time as a prisoner of war. I remember asking him lots of questions when i was younger as I found it fascinating but he would only tell pleasant stories. He frequently told us about the gibbons that he would see or the chameleon that visited almost daily.

“He has nine grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. He was an incredible man and will be missed by his family.”

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