It is important sometimes to reflect on those who sacrificed so much so that we can have the freedoms we often take for granted. And not just around Remembrance Sunday.

Last week I had the honour of delivering the eulogy at the funeral of local resident, Jack Ransom, who died aged 103, the last survivor of the 13,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers forced to work on the River Kwai during World War II.

I knew Jack as both a constituent and friend.

From humble beginnings in Peckham, on the opening day of the Second World War, 1st September 1939, Jack enlisted. Taken prisoner after Japan’s capture of Singapore, he was forced to work on the Burma Railway where many fellow prisoners succumbed to dysentery, cholera, malnutrition, and brutality.

In his memoirs, “The Scottish Cockney,”  Jack recounts how the will to live was essential for survival. And this sustained him.   

Despite the great suffering he and his comrades endured and despite tragedies suffered in his personal life, Jack never lost his positive, optimistic outlook.  

He loved being in company and always looked for the best in people, even referring to his Japanese guards as having a sense of humour at times! 

Jack returned to the Far East in 2009 to pay tribute to his fallen comrades. It was an important journey for him, and he often reflected on all the men he had known, had been imprisoned suffered alongside, now gone.  He never forgot them.

Having spent many years in Scotland post-war, Jack returned from England in 2008 and settled in Largs, making many friends. 

When a sprightly 90-years-old, he popped out to Morrisons for some groceries. As well as his shopping, he also met his future wife, Maddie, at the checkout.

Jack was keen to reach his 100-year milestone as this gave him the last laugh, since old age is so revered in Japan.

This sense of humour and the mischievous twinkle in his eye, never left him. Indeed, I think it explains his longevity. Jack’s philosophy was that life can be dull if you let it.  He worked hard to keep dullness from his life!

Jack celebrated his 103rd birthday party with characteristic sharp humour and anecdotes as can be seen in the attached photo. This was particularly poignant since his 100th birthday party had to be cancelled due to Covid restrictions but Jack, as always, took it all in his stride.

He is and was a true hero. Like many such people, he sought neither praise nor notice.  He was just Jack, taking life as it came.  A gentleman, a gentle man and a man it has been an honour to know.

Those of us who knew him, all share the sadness at the loss of this optimistic, indefatigable character who lived his life to the very fullest with a twinkle in his eye and rich tapestry of stories from his rich and fascinating life. 

He lived his life in a way from which we can all learn and we owe all such war heroes a debt of gratitude.