Sunny

Sunny

max temp: 19°C

min temp: 17°C

Search

Gallery: From Death Railway to red carpet, Roland is guest of honour at The Railway Man screening

PUBLISHED: 10:37 16 January 2014 | UPDATED: 10:37 16 January 2014

Roland Baker is a veteran of the Suffolk Regiment who was a prisoner of war in WWII and helped build the famous 'death railway'. He's attending the premier of The Railway Man - about the railway -  at the Stowmarket Regal on January 17th.

Roland Baker is a veteran of the Suffolk Regiment who was a prisoner of war in WWII and helped build the famous 'death railway'. He's attending the premier of The Railway Man - about the railway - at the Stowmarket Regal on January 17th.

A movie which depicts the suffering of British prisoners of war will have a special resonance for one Suffolk veteran.

The Railway Man, starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, will be premiered tomorrow at the Stowmarket Regal cinema.

Based on the best-selling book by Eric Lomax, the movie tells the story of the infamous ‘Death Railway’ which British prisoners of war (PoWs) were forced to build in Burma by their Japanese captors.

The film relates how Lomax (Colin Firth), a British officer, is captured by the Japanese in Singapore and sent to a PoW camp. He is forced to work on the Death Railway.

During his time in the camp, Lomax is tortured, primarily for building a radio.

Years later, and still suffering the psychological trauma of his wartime experiences, Lomax, with the help of his wife Patti (Nicole Kidman), decides to find and confront one of his captors.

Roland Baker, a veteran of the Suffolk Regiment who will turn 93 tomorrow, worked on that railway.

The Bacton resident has been invited to walk the red carpet at the Stowmarket Regal as a guest of honour after he was unable to accept his invitation to the London premiere of the film in Leicester Square last month.

Roland was born in Stowupland and attended school in Mendlesham and Wickham Skeith before joining the Territorial Army aged 18. In September 1939 he was called up to serve as a private in the Second World War.

In 1942 Roland and the 4th and 5th Battalions of the Suffolk Regiment fought in the Battle of Singapore, before being ordered to surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army.

Roland’s three and a half years of brutal captivity began when British forces were ferried to Thailand in cattle trucks.

“We were taken from Singapore to Thailand for four days and four nights in cattle trucks,” he said.

“There were 30 inside and 10 on the top but when the sparks from the engine came out the 10 on top had to get inside, so there were 40 inside. We had to take it in turns to sit down.

“Then we landed in Thailand and were bombed by the Americans; that killed 100 in our camp.”

The prisoners had to build their own wooden huts for camp before constructing some of the 600 bridges needed to finish the line.

“All the bridges were built of wood cut from the jungle and we carried the sleepers on our shoulders,” Roland said.

“There was no padding, so the blood was running down our arms and backs and I still have the scars today. You can’t forget it and I’ll never forget it.”

Living on rations of water and one pound of rice a day, often infested with maggots, Roland and his comrades would often be beaten with pick handles or bamboo for making mistakes or not bowing to their captors.

“There was a whole division from East Anglia out there and two battalions from Suffolk,” Roland added.

“We had over 180 killed in action in Singapore in two weeks and then 638 died as prisoners of war.”

Among those killed were Roland’s friends from Stowmarket, Bury, Haverhill and Eye.

“I’ve got the names and addresses of every man who was killed as a prisoner,” he said.

Several months before his liberation Roland said he could feel the Japanese soldiers becoming kinder to the prisoners, and US planes would drop food and clothing into camp.

Then the prisoners heard a bomb had been dropped on mainland Japan which could end the war. They were liberated by British forces in 1945.

Having been alerted to the movie The Railway Man by his invite to Leicester Square, Roland contacted the Stowmarket Regal to ask about when they would be showing it.

Regal office manager Sarah Page said: “Roland is a lovely man and a real hero, so we thought, if he can’t make it to the red carpet, we’ll bring the red carpet to him.”

1 comment

  • What a lovely thing for the Regal to do for this old soldier. A proper tribute for a hero. Well done.

    Report this comment

    N M

    Thursday, January 16, 2014

Shocking new images of people dicing with death on the region’s rail lines has been released by train operator Greater Anglia in a bid to reduce the number of trespass incidents on the track.

The Colchester vineyard was named as the only East Anglian Gold Medal winner in the Cellar Door category.

Students from Easton and Otley College have been putting the final touches to their displays at this year’s Suffolk Show.

Ipswich council chiefs have insisted there has been no delay to work on Crown car park – even though nothing has started after it closed on Monday.

As well as 50 iconic cars, Heveningham Hall will play host to an array of vintage aircraft for the first time this year.

Hosted on May 10 at Foxburrow Farm in Melton near Woodbridge, crowds enjoyed a variety activities and a raffle donated by a variety of local businesses.

Police are appealing for witnesses following a hit and run road traffic collision in Worlington this morning.

Most read

Eating Out in the Broads

cover

Click here to view
the Eating Out
supplement

View

Visit the Broads

cover

Click here to view
the Visit the Broads
supplement

View

Most commented

Show Job Lists

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter
MyDate24 MyPhotos24