Former Prisoners of War return to the Bridge on the River Kwai to remember their comrades 70 years on

Jack Jennings, Jim Crossan and William Maurice Naylor attend a memorial service at Chungkai cemetery near the Bridge on the River Kwai in Thailand. Credit: ITV News

ITV News joins three World War II veterans as they return to the Bridge on the River Kwai to pay their respects 70 years after their liberation.

Jack Jennings, 95, William Maurice Naylor, 94, and James "Jim" Crossan, 98, were among those who were imprisoned by the Japanese and forced to work on the notorious Death Railway.

Soon this nation and others that fought alongside will honour those who served.

But there is a difference between remembrance and actually remembering– and inevitably the number of those who can do the latter is dwindling.

That’s why it’s special to be here at the Bridge on the River Kwai with three soldiers who worked on the monstrous project known as the Death Railway.

The Japanese needed the line to extend their westward reach from Thailand into Burma. The cost of construction was paid for in human lives.

When complete the track stretched around 250 miles. It is said that for every sleeper laid, a man died. Fatalities probably topped 100,000.

Most of the dead were Asian slave labourers, but there were thousands of Allied PoWs as well, including almost 7,000 British servicemen.

William Maurice Naylor was one of three British soldiers who paid their respects. Credit: ITV News
Jack Jennings smiles as he returns to honour those comrades who fell. Credit: ITV News
At 98, James 'Jim' Crossan is the eldest of the three former soldiers. Credit: ITV News

History and Hollywood have conspired to make the Bridge on the River Kwai infamous the world over.

None of the three soldiers we’ve been lucky enough to accompany expects to return here, but they need not worry about the memory of what happened here being forgotten when eventually they are gone.

The Death Railway - cut through mountains and jungle - is a long, ugly scar that won’t go away. An indelible stain on mankind.

It is one of those war crimes that is forever.

This year roughly three million people agree with me. That’s the average number of visitors who come here annually.