Special birthday card arrives for former PoW

A man who was held captive by the Japanese during World War II received a very special birthday card when he turned 90 this week.

John Baxter was a member of the Royal Engineers when he was captured in the Far East in 1942. During his three years as a prisoner of war (PoW), his weight dropped to just seven-and-a-half stone as he battled starvation and hard labour with his fellow captives.

However, one Japanese guard showed particular compassion for the British prisoners and regularly risked his own life to pass food to them secretly.

This was Hyato Hirano. In 1995, they tracked each other down and both men now exchange cards every year.

Mr Baxter said: “There’s no point in dwelling on the past. You have to move on … we were living in very different times.”

For anyone interested in military history, a trip to the Far East could be ideal, particularly to Cambodia and Hong Kong, where much of the fighting in the Pacific took place. From here, travellers will also be able to reach the former site of Changi prison and the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai.

Mr Baxter was held in Indonesia, which is now a tranquil country renowned for its culture, arts and crafts and beautiful beaches.

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