Tales of life on the River Kwai

Lt Col Alfred Knights wrote a memoir of his time as a prisoner of the Japanese on the Burma Railway but it lay in regimental archives for years after his death.

But when former Air Marshal Sir Reginald Harland saw it, he decided to get it published. Singapore and the Thailand Burma Railway by Lt Col Alfred Knights, edited by Sir Reginald, is now published by Arena Books.

Sir Reginald, who lives in Bury, and Lt Col Knights, who was Bury St Edmunds Borough Electrical Engineer between the wars, had much in common. Both were engineers and served in volunteer military bodies before 1939. But Sir Reginald, now 92, was lucky not to be sent to Singapore until after the war.

Sir Reginald was shown the memoir by his daughter’s father-in-law Philip Hall, who was Lt Col Knights’ adjutant. Sir Reginald said: “I thought getting it published was well worth doing. It was very well written.”

Lt Col Knights did a four-year apprenticeship as a merchant seaman then joined the Royal Norfolk Regiment in 1914. He won the Military Medal and Military Cross.

He had a variety of electrical engineering jobs in East Anglia, before being recalled to the Norfolks in 1939. The book tells how he restored power at Changi jail and the prison camp on the ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ railway.

He also showed unusual insight into how the Japanese military thought.

“He put it to very good use,” Sir Reginald said. “He saved a lot of lives that way. He was an very clever man.”

The book is on www.amazon.co.uk!click here to go to Amazon and in Waterstones in Buttermarket.