‘Luck is a big part of life’ Former prisoner of war celebrates 100th birthday in Sidmouth

Raymond Savage just before his 100th birthday. Ref shs 47 19TI 4971. Picture: Terry Ife

Raymond Savage just before his 100th birthday. Ref shs 47 19TI 4971. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

An army captain who escaped German troops on skis and survived three years in a Japanese prisoner of war camp is celebrating his 100th birthday.

Raymond Savage was captured in Singapore during World War Two and was among prisoners of war who were forced to build the 'death railway' - a 415km railway track to support Japanese troops in the Burma campaign.

He was freed in 1945 and would go on to be a long-serving member of staff at Krafts, working there for 55 years.

Mr Savage, who is a resident at Holmesley Care Home, will mark the big day on December 2 with friends and enjoy a drink of 'Bolly'.

He joked that 'drinking out of a clean glass' was the key to a long life, adding: "I'm in very good health. I've never met many 100-year-olds. I feel the same as I have always felt."

Born in 1919 in Ealing, West London, Mr Savage joined the army when he was 19, serving as a first lieutenant and then captain in the Royal Leicestershire Regiment.

During World War Two he would serve in nine campaigns including one in Norway, for which he received a commemorative medal.

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In the campaign, he had to escape from German troops by skiing from Norway to Sweden - having never skied before.

Mr Savage said: "The Germans were advancing and there was a little boy who appeared and said: 'Come with me.'

"We did not know if it was a trick and we took the skis into the mountains. I had never skied before. You soon learn to.

"I have had a lucky life. I've fallen down and come up smelling of roses. Luck is a big part of life."

After arriving in Sweden, he was placed in an internment camp for six months before returning to the UK and then deployed to Singapore where he was captured.

The former army captain said: "I had to grin and bear it and hope I got through it. We had to build the railway. I was freed in 1945 when the bombs fell on Japan and we were sent back home."

He started working in a bank on his return from the war but realised he preferred being outside and landed a job at Krafts.

He would remain there until he was 85, working his way up the ranks to become director of trade relations. He moved to Devon after his retirement.