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‘I’ve never known a man so strong’ - tributes to Burma Railway veteran Alf Davey, from Suffolk

PUBLISHED: 08:00 10 August 2017 | UPDATED: 08:05 10 August 2017

Alf Davey, a Burma Railway POW veteran from Bungay has died. Picture: PAUL HEYES/LANCASHIRE TELEGRAPH

Alf Davey, a Burma Railway POW veteran from Bungay has died. Picture: PAUL HEYES/LANCASHIRE TELEGRAPH

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When Suffolk “farm boy” Alf Davey returned from years of forced labour on the Burma “Death Railway”, his bride-to-be was warned against him.

Burma Railway veteran Alf Davey, pictured right, at a family wedding with his brother Peter and sister Elsie. DAVEY FAMILYBurma Railway veteran Alf Davey, pictured right, at a family wedding with his brother Peter and sister Elsie. DAVEY FAMILY

“Don’t marry this man,” Elsie Eaves’ father told her. “He has been through too much – he will never last.”

But last he did. The man who endured more than three years as a prisoner of war, went on to live an “extraordinary life”.

His death last Monday, aged 97, was met with glowing tributes from family in Suffolk, as well as Blackburn, where he lived much of his married life.

Elsie Davey, Alf’s sister who lives in Harleston, said: “He was a marvellous person – he was always there for me.” His brother, Peter added: “He was a true gent.” Ellen, Peter’s wife, said: “I’ve never known a man so strong. To have endured what he endured, I don’t know how he managed.”

Mr Davey, pictured at his wedding to Elsie Eaves. They were married on June 15, 1946, and were together 52 years until Elsie's death. Picture: DAVEY FAMILYMr Davey, pictured at his wedding to Elsie Eaves. They were married on June 15, 1946, and were together 52 years until Elsie's death. Picture: DAVEY FAMILY

Born and raised with seven siblings in Bungay, Mr Davey left school at 14 to work on a farm.

He once said he joined the Territorial Army “for a break from farm work”, shortly before the Second World War broke out.

Aged 19, he joined the 4th Battalion of the Royal Norfolk Regiment and trained in bases across the country, including Blackburn, where he met his future wife on a blind date.

He was sent to the Far East in 1942 but was captured shortly after arriving in Singapore.

Mr Davey, aged 19, on his bike at home in Bungay. Picture: DAVEY FAMILYMr Davey, aged 19, on his bike at home in Bungay. Picture: DAVEY FAMILY

As a prisoner of war he spent much of his time doing forced labour on the Burma Railway, which took thousands of lives including many of his comrades’.

They were freed by American troops in 1945.

His family said he rarely talked about his time as a captive. But in 2005, on the 60th anniversary of VJ Day, Mr Davey told how he had nightmares about his treatment and still suffered bouts of malaria, publishing a memoir “From farm boy, to soldier to prisoner of war”.

After the war, Mr Davey spent time with his family in Bungay before heading to Blackburn to see his girlfriend.

Mr and Mrs Davey on holiday in Gorelston in 1981. Picture: DAVEY FAMILYMr and Mrs Davey on holiday in Gorelston in 1981. Picture: DAVEY FAMILY

Despite her father’s warnings, they were wed on June 15, 1946. The couple were together 52 years until her death some years ago.

They made regular trips back to visit family in East Anglia, holidaying in Gorleston and Pakefield.

His daughter Jennifer Pickup told the Lancashire Telegraph: “My father was a remarkable man with a extraordinary life.”

Mr Davey’s funeral is on Friday.

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