When Alec Guinness won his Oscar for the role as Colonel Nicholson in the film Bridge on the River Kwai nothing could have been further from his mind than the feelings of the real life colonel who, as prisoner of the Japanese in the second world war, was forced to build a bridge over a major river in order to help the Japanese supply route from Thailand to Burma. After all, the role was entirely fictional. It was based on a film which itself was based on a novel by a then little known French writer called Pierre Boulle.
What few knew and fewer still understood was that the story of the Bridge on the River Kwai was loosely based on a notorious episode in the Second World War. The irony was that whereas in the film Colonel Nicholson had had to help the Japanese to build their bridge, in reality the Japanese were skilled engineers and the main role of the real life colonel, Phil Toosey, was to ensure that the men under his command suffered as little as possible at the hands of their unforgiving captors.
Toosey was a merchant banker in civilian life but had been an active officer in the Territorial Army since 1925. When he was caught up in Singapore, the worst military defeat in British history, he refused to take the easy way out and be evacuated to India but chose to remain with his men. His story is one of bloody-minded determination not to give up in the face of an implacable enemy.
The article featured a recording of an Interview with Phil Toosey. Click here to listen to the interview.