FORMER RAF sergeant Donald Swann is making a pilgrimage to the Far East.
Donald, 83, who is president of the Honley Male Voice Choir, served for four years in Burma, China and India.
During his nine-day trip he will visit Mandalay, from where he made his escape from the advancing Japanese forces.
The visit has been arranged by the Royal British Legion and Donald and 52 other Far East veterans flew out from Heathrow yesterday to Bangkok, Thailand.
They will then go by road to Burma, where they will also visit Rangoon and other areas where they served and take part in services at war cemeteries.
The pilgrimage is part of the lottery-funded Heroes Return programme, commemorating the 60th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.
Donald, of Honley, went to Burma in 1941. He was a code and cipher operator with an RAF explosives unit in Rangoon, using a machine similar to the Enigma machine used by the Germans.
When the Japanese invaded, the unit moved north to Mandalay.
Then in February, 1942, the British forces were evacuated.
"We were cut off and told to go north and meet up with other units and make our way to China." recalled Donald.
"We drove in trucks for about 1,800 miles - including several hundred miles through the mountains along the Burma Road, which was little more than a track. We were continually bombed and machine- gunned by Japanese aircraft.
"The Japanese forces were only a day or two away and progress was slow, but after five weeks we reached China."
Donald and the rest of the unit were attached to the Chinese air force until September, 1943.
He then served in India for a time before finally returning to Rangoon. He was demobbed in October, 1945.
It is the first time that Donald has been back to the Far East and he is hoping to meet some of his former comrades. He is also looking forward to visiting Rangoon and Mandalay.
After the war Donald went into local government and was appointed head of youth and community education in Huddersfield Education Department in 1951.
He then held a similar post with Bradford Education Department from 1961 until he retired in 1979. In 1977 he was awarded the OBE for services to youth education.
Some years ago he received the China War Memorial medal, which was awarded by the nationalist government of China.