Tributes to Leeds PoW hero and family lynchpin

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WARM tributes have been paid to a Second World War veteran and former Far East prisoner of war who helped build the real ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’.

Harry Walton, from Swarcliffe, passed away a month before his 96th birthday after contracting pneumonia.

The former Northumberland Fusilier Sergeant was well-known through his work at Leeds Kirkgate Market managing the Thrift Grocery Store.

Born and raised in Garforth, he joined the army on October 16, 1939, and served as a machine gunner. His six years in service took him from guarding the coast of Cornwall to the Hellfire Pass in the depths of the Burmese jungle.

He was held prisoner from the fall of Singapore in 1942 until victory was declared in Japan in September 1945. He was put to work at Keppel Docks whilst held at the Changi PoW camp, then on to the notorious Thai–Burma railway, also known as the Death Railway, constructing the real bridge over the River Kwai and digging the “Hellfire Pass” before ending up in Japan at the copper mines of Iruka.

Harry’s daughters Sandra and Carole said: “Dad never really went into great detail about the war. He’d tell small stories, then a couple years of ago we asked him to write down as much as he wanted to about his time in the war so we could pass it on to his grand-children and great-grandchildren, so they would know how courageous and brave he had been. He was one of the most gentle and respected men - he would have done anything for us. “He loved his garden and greenhouse and always had pocket money and a joke for the children.”

Harry lived in Garforth before the war and later settled with wife Irene in Swarcliffe. Irene passed away five years ago. The couple had four grand-children and five great-grandchildren.

His remembrance and funeral is at Lawnswood Crematorium, Otley Road this Thursday, November 20 at 1.20pm.

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