A NEWPORT veteran taken prisoner in Taiwan during the World War II will return to the country for a final visit after years building ties with the island that held him captive.
George Reynolds, 91, was just 18 years old when he joined the Royal Artillery regiment in March 1937.
But after working as a signaller during the early years of the war in India, he was captured at the fall of Singapore in February 1942 and sent to some of Taiwan's most notorious PoW camps.
Mr Reynolds, of Victoria Close, Newport, made the three week voyage from Singapore to Taiwan on the England Maru, also known as the “Hell Ship”, where many prisoners of war died because of the awful conditions.
Once in Taiwan, Mr Reynolds spent nine months at the Taihokm PoW camp, before being moved to Kinkaseki to work in the copper mines.
Working backbreaking 12 hour days with only rations to eat, Mr Reynolds' weight plummeted from 13 stone 8oz to six stone, and he contracted typhoid after eating rice poisoned by rat droppings.
When the camps were finally liberated in 1945, Mr Reynolds' parents did not recognise their own son as he got off the train at Newport, only realising who he was when they heard him ask for a bus to Corporation Road.
“I had gone away a boy and come back a man,” said Mr Reynolds.
But despite his harrowing experience, Mr Reynolds returned to Taiwan eight years ago as part of the Taiwan PoW Camps Memorial Society. Along with men he met in Kinkaseki, Mr Reynolds has now been to the country five times to remember those who were lost in the camps, and build ties with the Taiwanese people.
“I do not feel any malice or hatred towards anyone because if I did it would affect me. I saw grown men crying with starvation in the prison camps, but after every meal I would sit back and tell myself I was satisfied. That attitude has helped me through.”
Mr Reynolds, who was married to wife Dorothy for 47 years and had six children, will fly to Taiwan for the sixth time on November 9 with his brother Thomas and daughter Jean Hackling. But at 91, he said this may have to be the last time he visits.
“I’ve said this will probably be my last visit, but I’ve said that the last few times! I have a strong affinity with the Middle East now, and it's important to reminisce about what we went through.”