A PROUD grandson has told the moving tale of an “inspirational” Reading FC footballer who survived the legendary River Kwai death camp.

Michael Doe told The Chronicle of his pride in his granddad Johnny Sherwood who was forced to build the infamous bridge over the River Kwai – immortalised in the 1957 film starring Alec Guinness – after being captured by the Japanese during the Second World War.

Mr Doe was speaking on the eve of the publication of his book Lucky Johnny: The Footballer Who Survived the River Kwai Death Camps which gives a remarkable first hand account of the horrors Mr Sherwood faced.

It was a sacrifice lost to history for six decades before Michael stumbled across handwritten notes and pictures in his mum’s attic last year which threw a graphic light on his granddad’s gruelling experience.

He said: “I would say it completed the jigsaw. I got to understand the man he was and the way he was feeling and what he was going through.

“It was moving reading through the horrors he went through. He’s a hero in my eyes – a hero footballer with the world at his feet and the possibility of an England career stopped by three and a half years on the Burma railways.

“He’s a role model for the people of today – an inspiration.”

Sherwood grew up above the former May Duke pub in Great Knollys Street, Reading, and his talent was spotted by Reading FC as a teen leading to a professional contract and the strong prospect of becoming a fixture for the England team.

In 1938, he toured the world as part of the all-star British team the Islington Corinthians, racking up an amazing 72 goals from 72 games, but just four years later he was a soldier in the Royal Artillery who surrendered to the Japanese at the siege of Singapore.

Mr Doe told The Chronicle how his grandfather – who died in 1985 aged 72 – used to hide himself away in his shed which he now understands was time spent writing about his time under the rule of the Japanese.

Having survived an attack from a US submarine while on a Japanese freighter which claimed the lives of 800 other prisoners of war and witnessed the atom bomb fall on Nagasaki, forcing Japan’s surrender, Sherwood returned to Reading FC before stints at Crystal Palace and Aldershot.

Reading FC club archivist David Downs will be talking about Sherwood at Chapter One Bookshop, in Crockhamwell Road, Woodley, at 12pm.

The book is priced at £20 and is released next Thursday.