If I get anywhere near Jim Crossan’s age, I hope I’ll be as pleasant and interesting, and just as philosophical about awful events. Jim is 101.
He was a prisoner of the Japanese and worked on the infamous “Railway of Death.”
He was good company as I waited to give a talk at Penwortham to impaired veterans of the armed forces, some of them blind and some with various degrees of deafness.
I had been invited by Julie Eccleston, a community support officer of Blind Veterans UK.
She introduced me to Jim Crossan, who tuned his hearing aid to my voice.
It was a few days before Remembrance Sunday and Jim recalled for me his special trip of remembrance in November, 2013, to Singapore and Thailand.
He was the eldest of 33 veterans, with carers or relatives, who made the trip under the government-sponsored scheme taking veterans back to their theatres of war.
Jim recalled for me how he arrived in Singapore, just 10 days before the surrender on February 15, 1942.
“Arrived just in time to be captured,” he said to me, dryly.
In the Gazette before the 2013 journey, accompanied by his son, Robin, the old soldier said Robin was the only person to whom he had told the whole story.
The trip would enable him to “dot the I’s and cross the T’s.”
After being imprisoned in Singapore, Jim was transferred in October, 1942, to work on the Thailand-Burma railway, which became known as the Railway of Death, because of the thousands who died in its construction.
And it was to a war cemetery near the River Kwai that Jim, Robin and others were accompanied by the British Ambassador in 2013.
Jim Crossan was born in the coal mining village of Chapel Hall, Lanarkshire, on October 13, 1917.
He enlisted with the Royal Army Service Corps in November, 1939, and was with the British Expeditionary Force in France. He got back to Britain in the evacuation.
When Jim knew he was to be sent with the army to Singapore, he and his girl friend, Jean, became engaged.
After the fall of Singapore she waited for him – not knowing if he was alive or would return to Britain.
Against all odds he survived and they were married in November, 1945.
Today, Jim prefers not to dwell on his experiences as a prisoner.
His faith has been his friend and he is still a member of the choir at the White Church, Fairhaven, three miles from his home in Warton.
I was amazed to hear that he lives alone, but just round the corner from Robin, who came to the area to work at British Aerospace.
Jim pays tribute to the veterans’ associations, who have been helpful to him.
Blind Veterans UK organises meetings and events across Lancashire.
They can be contacted on 0151 2597040.