But Bernard Duffy never held a grudge against his Japanese enemies and even managed to forgive them.
By rights, he would have seen out his final days in peace, a respected Second World War hero who did his duty and came home to build a new Britain.
But instead, he was forced to live in fear – not gripped by the memories of his treatment 70 years ago but by the actions of a near-neighbour who raided his house twice.
Bernard, who barely missed a day’s work in the Inverclyde shipyards after the war, was targeted by his complete opposite – a feckless drug user half his age who has barely worked and has a list of shocking criminal convictions.
In every way imaginable, upstanding Bernard and heroin addict Gary Donnachie were worlds apart – but they lived just two streets away from each other in Greenock, symbols of two very different Scotlands.
Brazen Donnachie first tried to rob Bernard in 2011, then came back in April last year, smashing his downstairs window at 1.15am and careering into the house in search of money and valuables.
Fearing for his precious Second World War medals, Bernard, who was sleeping downstairs, shone the high-powered torch he kept by his bed directly into Donnachie’s face, startling the thief who ran off into the night.
Fiercely proud Bernard said little about the crime and tried his best to carry on living normally. But being violated in the very home he was born in back in 1924 and which was in his family for three generations soon took its toll.
Just three months later he suffered a stroke – and a month after that he died.
Now his daughter Anne, 58, has revealed how the break-in – the second time Donnachie, 42, had targeted her dad – led to the sudden decline in his health.
She said: “The break-in definitely contributed to his ill health.
“Whether he ever got over it or not I’ll never know. He was too proud to say.
“About a fortnight after the attack I asked him how he was doing. I knew he’d been exhausted but I also thought ‘is he getting over it all right?’.
“And I asked him if he had any nightmares following the attack. He replied, ‘I’m just trying to forget about it’.”
Retired teacher Anne, who lived with Bernard, said: “I felt really guilty that I was sleeping upstairs while it happened.
“Because I wasn’t there I don’t know the immediate impact it had on dad – probably shock.
“He always had a torch on the table beside him, and I think when he heard a noise his reaction was to shine the torch which scared Donnachie away.
“I’m proud of his perseverance and his resistance, without being aggressive. He fired a gun when he had to, because it was his duty, not through any sense of bloodlust or violence.”
Donnachie, who has 19 previous convictions including a 10-year jail term for a life-threatening assault, left his DNA on Bernard’s broken window and was swiftly arrested.
When he appeared at Greenock Sheriff Court he was jailed for two years for the raid – meaning that legal restrictions preventing Anne from talking about the case were finally lifted.
Anne said: “You’ve got to fight crime, fight the good fight, and my father did exactly that.
“As far as he was concerned, he had protected the empire and protected the household. He was very proud of that.
“If anybody asked him how he was doing he would always reply ‘bearing up’. He knew he was getting frailer and stiffer, so he was being accurate instead of pretending to be fine.”
The 2011 raid was virtually identical to the 2015 one – except that in 2011 Donnachie smashed windows at the front and back of the house, was disturbed by Anne and her dad and ran off without getting in. He got 12 months probation and had to pay £100 compensation.
Anne said: “Dad was sleeping in the front room the night of the second break-in. When I came downstairs in the morning he was shivering in the back room.
“I didn’t hear him call for me and he didn’t want to cause a fuss. So he had just moved to the back room because it was so cold in the front with the window being smashed.
“I felt really guilty that I hadn’t heard him call for me, or heard the break-in itself.”
And yet dignified Bernard bore no malice towards his tormentor, having been brought up to forgive.
Anne said: “He never had an ill word to say about anybody – he didn’t speak badly of the Japanese either.
“He never had any sense of hard-heartedness or hatred of the enemy. Just do your duty, get on with it, and live your life. And the same with the man who broke in, he never spoke badly of him.
“My dad was determined not to let that guy defeat him and he managed to battle on for four months.
“He was very determined for ordinary life to continue.”
The Second World War broke out when Bernard was 15. When he was old enough in 1943 he joined up with the Queen’s Own Cameron Highlanders. Pictures from the time show him fresh-faced and barely needing to shave.
Anne said: “I remember him telling me when his mum and dad took him to the train station for the war the conductor made a joke about them accepting school kids now because he looked that young.”
His regiment was deployed to India in 1944 and in 1945 they marched hundreds of miles into Burma, where the war with the Japanese was still raging.
Bernard saw comrades perish in the fierce heat and under sustained enemy fire as they fought a series of skirmishes with the Japanese.
He was one of hundreds of soldiers who took part in the famous crossing of the Irrawaddy river led by Field Marshal Sir William Slim.
Anne said: “He made it but somebody in the same dinghy was killed, so they had to cross the river with his body just lying there which I think he found very traumatic.”
Suffering exhaustion, he was hospitalised then posted to the army’s leave centre in Darjeeling, where he looked after the stores.
He arrived home from India in January 1947 and soon got work in the statistics office of Scot Lithgow Ship Builders.
He’d been married to devoted wife Agnes for 39 years when she died in 1994.
Justifiably proud of his war record, he was a member of the Renfrewshire Branch of the Burma Star Association and kept in close touch with the 17 other members.
Despite being given a two-year sentence, early release rules mean that Donnachie will most likely be back on the streets by the end of this year.
Anne said: “What’s the point in giving him two years if he’s not going to serve it?”
But, showing more than a little of her late dad’s stoicism and positive attitude, she added: “At least he’s off the streets for now.”
Clutching a picture of Bernard, who took redundancy from the shipyards aged 59, she said: “I’m not one to give way to sentimentality but I do miss him greatly and I’m very proud to call him my father.
“A situation like this really shows how two men could be so different.
“My dad was honourable and kind-hearted, without a bad word to say about anybody, and Gary Donnachie, not that I know much about his life, had no regard for anything like that.”