Gordon Highlander who survived Burma railway dies

Gordon Highlander veteran James Scot. Pictute: HeMedia
Gordon Highlander veteran James Scot. Pictute: HeMedia
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ONE of the last Gordon Highlanders to survive the the construction of the Thailand-Burma Death Railway has died.

Private James ‘Jimmy’ Scott was posted to Singapore with the Gordon Highlanders’ 2nd Battalion and defended the city against Japanese invaders.

But he was captured in 1942 and sent to the Changi prison camp building where he spent three-and-a-half years working on the railway where more than 100,00 men died.

Only four of the Gordon Highlanders sent to work on the railway line remain alive.

Pt Scott, who was born in Cuminestown in November 1920, recently recalled his time there when interviewed by writer Stewart Mitchell, author of Scattered Under the Rising Sun.

He said it was a “much worse fate” being captured by the Japanese than being taken by the Germans.

He said at the time: “Many lives were lost, either by falling from the bridge into the river and being swept away or through weakness and tropical diseases such as cholera, beriberi, dysentery or malaria.

“If your skin was cut by bamboo or a chip from a rock, the sore would turn into a tropical ulcer.

“These ulcers grew very big and sometimes a whole hip or calf was eaten away.

“Limbs had to be amputated with a joiner’s saw.

“The blue flies liked the ulcers and we waited until the maggots were working around the outside of the ulcer.

“Several men would hold you down and the pus was scraped out to where the maggots were, often to the bone.

“We were getting weaker all the time and it got too time consuming to bury the bodies and as the Japanese were in such a hurry we had to build bonfires and cremate the dead.”

Pt Scott was an apprentice joiner before he accidentally joined the Gordon Highlanders.

He had signed his name at the door of a hall in Dufftown where he had taken some friends to show them his work. He did not realise what he had done until he was called up and deployed to Le Havre in France.

When Mr Scott was liberated from the Japanese prison, he returned home and settled down in Turriff, in Aberdeenshire, where he married his wife Lizzie and had six children.

He died last Saturday at the age of 94 and his funeral was held on Wednesday.

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