But now Gus Anckorn, 93, from Kent, has decided to share his story, recalling how he was bombed twice, buried alive and even lined up before a firing squad.
He was also the only one of his working party on the railway, immortalised in the Alec Guinness film Bridge On The River Kwai, to survive - but that was only because he'd had hot tar poured over him and was sent to hospital.
Managing to cheat death on six occasions, he played dead to escape a notorious hospital massacre at the hands of Japanese soldiers and talked his way out of being executed for stealing eggs.
Mr Anckorn was a gunner in the Royal Artillery but was also an expert conjurer and member of the Magic Circle and he often used his skills to get one over on his captors.
He kept his remarkable battle of survival largely to himself for most of his life until he captivated a fellow guest at a black-tie dinner with it three years ago.