We all recall the film starring William Holden, Jack Hawkins, and Alec Guinness. Perhaps less memorable is the novel, which was the basis of the American/British film in 1957. The novel was written by a French prisoner of war who was forced to participate in the Burma-Siam Railway project. In his book titled Le Pont de la Riviêre Kwai (1952), Pierre Boulle later claimed that his character, LtCol Nicholson, was an amalgamation of French military officers whom Boulle observed did collaborate with the Japanese.
The fact that French officers collaborated with the enemy should surprise no one; the Vichy French were, after all, part of the Axis Powers.
The real allied commander of the Burma-Siam Railway prisoners was Lieutenant Colonel Philip Toosey, who passed away in 1975. He has been recently joined in death by a comrade, Mr. Fred Seiker (shown left), who on 1 June 2017 passed away at the age of 101. Both gentlemen were preceded in death by around 120,000 victims of Japanese atrocities, including Asian laborers and allied servicemen.
Mr. Seiker tells of his trials as a prisoner/slave laborer in his book entitled Lest We Forget. He is right, of course: we should not forget the trial and suffering that he and others endured. If we do forget, then we are doomed to repeat a very sad history—and we will deserve no less.
Rest in peace, Mr. Seiker.