Prisoner of war gets red carpet treatment

Roland Baker, 93, at the Regal Theatre with Mayor of Stowmarket Vera Waspe
Roland Baker, 93, at the Regal Theatre with Mayor of Stowmarket Vera Waspe
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A World War Two veteran who was captured by the Japanese and forced to work on the dreaded Thai/Burma Railway has been given the red carpet treatment at a special film premiere in Stowmarket.

Roland Baker, from Bacton, celebrated his 93rd birthday on Friday at the Regal Theatre at a special screening of The Railway Man starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman.

Private Baker was invited to the star-studded London premiere of the film but decided not to go because it was too far to travel.

But Roland still wanted to see the movie so called the Regal Theatre to find out when it was on.

Sarah Page, from the cinema, said: “When Roland called we got chatting about his time in the war and he told me he had been invited to the London premiere.

“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.”

Roland spent his 21st birthday on a boat in the Indian Ocean heading towards the battlefields in Singapore.

Serving with the Suffolk Regiment, he was captured by the Japanese in February 1942 and made to work on the railways until 1945, finally making it home in October that year.

He said: “They starved us, worked us hard and beat us up if we did anything wrong.

“We survived on just rice and water for three years.

“Sometimes the rice had maggots in it - we used to eat them for our meat ration.

“It is a wonder that any of us survived really.”

Roland said it was hard to keep positive under such horrendous conditions.

“We did our best,” he said.

“We could work 10 or 12 hours building a bridge, then it would be bombed and we would have to start again and work through the night.

“I guess it was the ones who didn’t keep their spirits up who were the ones who didn’t make it.”