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The Man Behind the Bridge: Colonel Toosey and the River Kwai Hardcover – 17 Apr 1991
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'A first class work of history' Lloyds List
About the Author
Peter E Davies has written or co-written nineteen books on modern American combat aircraft, including the standard reference work on US Navy and Marine Corps Phantom II operations, Gray Ghosts. He is based in Bristol, UK. --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.
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Awarded the DSO for heroism during the defense of Singapore, he refused an order to join the evacuation so he could remain with his men during captivity. Under the Geneva Convention, it was forbidden for prisoners of war to do any work of use to the enemy. Building the bridge might be construed as collaboration but there was no alternative. Toosey, from the outset, understood that the only real issue was to ensure that as many of his men as possible should survive. Under the circumstances, he achieved this to a remarkable degree. In the hellish conditions of the camp, he worked courageously to ensure that as many of his men as possible would survive. He endured regular beatings when he complained of ill-treatment of prisoners, but as a skilled negotiator he was able to win many concessions from the Japanese by convincing them that this would speed the completion of the work. Behind their backs, however, he did everything possible to delay and sabotage the construction without endangering his men, and also helped organize a daring escape, at considerable cost to himself. For his conduct in the camp, he won the undying respect of his men.
One of a number of Allied POW's, Toosey was in charge of his men from late 1942 through May 1943 when they were ordered to build two Kwai River bridges in Burma (one of steel, one of wood), to help move Japanese supplies and troops from Bangkok to Rangoon. In reality, the actual bridge took 8 months to build (rather than two months), and they were actually used for two years, and were only destroyed two years after their construction - in late June 1945. The memoirs of the 'real' Colonel Nicholson were compiled into a 1991 book by Peter Davies entitled "The Man Behind the Bridge."
After the war, he showed great generosity of spirit by saving the life of Colonel Saito, second in command at the camp and a relatively decent officer, when he spoke up for him at the war crimes tribunal. He worked for the veterans all his life, and became President of the National Federation of Far Eastern Prisoners of War.
Toosey returned to Liverpool and resumed his career in banking.
He refused repeated requests by the veterans to speak out against the film, being much too modest to seek any glory or recognition for himself. However you will find his achievements documented in a book by Professor Peter Davies entitled "The Man Behind the Bridge".
Other books on the building:
Extensive 27 page PDF file on the building of the bridge:
13,000 prisoners of war died while building the Burma-Thailand Railway for the Japanese.