A SECOND World War veteran who survived brutal treatment as a Japanese prisoner of war has died aged 98.

Brightonian Bob Morrell spent three and a half years enduring beatings, malaria, dengue fever and hard labour in a camp run by the Japanese army in Indonesia.

He lived a formidable life. Born in May 1921 in Foundry Street, Brighton, Bob joined the RAF aged 17 and fought in the Battle of Britain.

At his funeral in Brighton on Monday, the Last Post was played. The crowded service at Woodvale Crematorium was attended by family, friends and representatives from the RAF and the Royal British Legion in military dress.

Reverend Andrew Birks, who led the service, described it as a “fitting tribute to a remarkable man”.

He said: “Bob suffered heavily. But one of the things I found most impressive was that he talked about it. His memories and experiences were hard-hitting, but despite what happened, he still loved his life.”

More than 190,000 British and Commonwealth troops were taken prisoner by the Japanese army in the Second World War. A quarter died in captivity, while the rest returned sick and scarred.

Former Argus reporter Ben James spoke to Bob in 2015 about his experiences and the flashbacks of the camp that haunted him all his life.

Bob said: “They are terrifying. They are only for a few seconds but in those seconds I can see so much. They are real. I’m back in the Far East. Part of me knows I’m not because I’m thinking, ‘grab on to that railing’, but I’m there. I’m back there.”

After being captured in Java, Bob and 2,000 other prisoners were crammed into a cargo ship and taken to the island of Haroekoe in April 1943. Conditions were so awful that many died on the journey. When the prisoners arrived, they were ordered to carve off the peaks of two hills and build a runway.

Bob said: “They set us to work with six-inch chisels and a hammer. It was back-breaking and we were all ill and weak with no food. They didn’t see us as human beings – we were slaves. To this day I just don’t understand their mentality. If they wanted the job done, they could have treated us well, fed us, looked after us and we would have done well and done it quick.

“But they didn’t. We worked dawn until dusk, with little food, no medicine and they beat us. I will never understand and I will never forgive them.”

Of the 2,000 that made the journey to the island, roughly 600 died, many from sheer exhaustion.

“When I came back from a day’s work, they would look at me and gesture at the bodies. That was one of the problems of being one of the so-called fit ones. I would have to carry the coffins over to a pit they had dug. I just wanted to collapse and sleep but I had to carry ten, sometimes 12, coffins.

“It’s hard to think of now but war does funny things to your mind. I resented them dying. I thought ‘I’ve had enough and now I’ve got to carry you over there’. It’s not ‘poor old Bill’, it’s ‘why did he have to bloody die on my bloody shift?’”.

Bob endured a year and a half on Haroekoe before he and the other prisoners were ordered off the island.