When one catches the glint of a surgeon’s knife a role model comes in handy. I’m reminded of mine by a small wooden toy piper. It belonged to a dead Royal Marine called “Cockie”
None of those offices were responsible for me refusing his invitation to call him Alan. To me – an officer hater from way back – he will always be The Colonel. And I count it the greatest honour of my life that I was with him when he died of the cancer he collected in a Jap POW camp. When he said he wished I had been with him in the camps I nearly fainted from pride.
The last time we met he was in agony in a hospital in Lymington and a few hours earlier he had tried to speak. I had to lean over him to hear what he was saying. It was: “Have you been offered something to drink?”
I met him when I was researching a book about the escape from
It was a fascinating book. Tiring of his job at Chatham,
Spenser Chapman, recalling a mission behind the enemy lines with
When he arrived in
When the Japanese came, although there was a price on his head, he officially surrendered the British army to them. In the three and a half years that followed, he commanded British slave camps on the Burma-Siam railway. Had the Kemptai discovered his identity he would have been shot. There had been a price on his head since the early days in
An Australian surgeon Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, who became known as the Christ of the Burma Railway, wrote to me of
When the Colonel left the army he worked as an English teacher at Flint Hills, a private school in the
“Colonel Warren’s leaving Flint Hills marks the end of an era. He is Flint Hills’ Mr Chips. With his grey hair carefully groomed, his white moustache well clipped, he is the epitome of the English military gentleman. …those students who have been fortunate enough to have him as a teacher know there will never be anyone who can take his place.”
The Colonel bought the little wooden piper in
That is why the little piper always marches at my side.