The West

Surviving against all the odds
Still going strong: Thai-Burma railway World War II PoW Harold Martin with Bryan and Scott. Picture: Mogens Johansen/The West Australian

Harold Martin survived the disastrous fall of Singapore in World War II.

Then he survived being put to work in horrendous conditions as a prisoner of war on the infamous Thai-Burma railway.

He also survived almost four days clinging to a raft in the South China Sea after the unmarked Japanese vessel which had been taking PoWs to work in Japanese coal mines was sunk by a US submarine.

He was finally and miraculously rescued by another US submarine. The way Mr Martin, 97, of Albany, sees it, he was one of the lucky ones.

He said that the rows of headstones in war cemeteries were a reminder of the sacrifices made by so many others.

"They were all young men and they had their whole lives in front of them," he said.

"I am one of the lucky ones. I went through it and came out of it all right.

"Those who gave their lives should be remembered for it."

To a younger group of former soldiers, who are part of a veteran support project known as The Walk Home 2014, Mr Martin is an inspiration.

Two members of the group met Mr Martin at the Kings Park war memorial this week.

The Walk Home 2014 is a group of serving or former members of the defence forces, State or Federal police and civilian supporters of the defence forces.

And come Anzac Day they will be at Hellfire Pass, a notorious part of the Thai-Burma railway.

There they will be reunited with Mr Martin, who has already planned his trip to the dawn service at the jungle cutting.

The Walk Home team will then set out on a 12-day walk along the railway's path to raise awareness of and funds for Soldier On, which was set up in 2012 to help wounded diggers adapt to civilian life.

The party will consist of 11 walkers and four support crew, two of whom are being helped by Soldier On.

Former soldier Bryan, who is one of the organisers of the walk, said the idea had sprung from a visit he had made to the Thai section of the railway in 2012.

He said Mr Martin and his generation of returned soldiers had shown how to push beyond their war experiences in civilian life.

"We are hoping that guys who are now finding it hard can look at Harold and see how he has gone through the tough times and come through," Bryan said.

Another former soldier and member of the expedition, Scott, said the camaraderie that existed between those who had served in the armed forces or police had led to the walk.

"When a friend is in need of help, you don't hesitate," he said.

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