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Hero who sabotaged bridge with termites

A WAR hero's medals have revealed the untold story of a Scottish soldier who survived three years of suffering building the notorious Burma Railway.

Kenneth McLeod, who has died aged 92, was captured by the Japanese in the Second World War and was one of the last surviving veterans who worked on the bridge over the River Kwai.

Now his daughter and son are donating his war medals, Glengarry bonnet and sporran to the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders museum at Stirling Castle, where he was based more than 70 years ago.

Mr McLeod, of Bridge of Weir, Renfrewshire, was sent to Singapore as a young officer with the Argylls and was training in jungle warfare in Malaya when Japanese forces landed unexpectedly in the north.

He fought with the 2nd Battalion at the Battle of Slim River but was cut off behind enemy lines.

With a group of stragglers and carrying a wounded man for two days, he set off towards Singapore.

They had marched 100 miles before being ambushed.

He escaped into the jungle, but surrendered when his name was called out to save the others from being shot.

Both his legs became paralysed from poisoning and he was hospitalised in Kuala Lumpur. After recovering, he volunteered to go to Siam rather than return to Singapore with the wounded prisoners. This meant he was in No 1 work party which built two bamboo camps before starting the wooden bridge on the north side of the River Kwai at Tamarkan, immortalised in the epic film The Bridge on the River Kwai starring Alec Guinness.

Mr McLeod sabotaged his work by farming termite eggs which he placed at each joint and at the base of every upright.

After the railway was completed, the Japanese segregated Mr McLeod and the other officers from the enlisted men and marched them away. He later discovered they were all to be murdered.

Their lives were saved with the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, forcing the Japanese surrender.

Some 90,000 Asian labourers and 16,000 Allied POWs died building the Burma Railway.

Speaking at a remembrance service in 2005, Mr McLeod, a committed Christian, said it was unsurprising the route was named the Railway of Death.

He recalled: "Many of my friends and colleagues did not survive, but two things helped me to keep going and not give up, and these were faith and hope."

His daughter, Moira Johnston, said yesterday: "As children we would hear the funny stories from the army but not much about anything else. He kept those experiences to himself."

 
 
 

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