Sun Kuo-hsi vividly remembers the chaos of the final years of the Chinese civil war and the government forces he fought for, collapsing in front of Mao Zedong's Communists, forcing him to flee by boat to Taiwan in 1949 in a perilous eight-day crossing.

"There was no dock; everyone was splashing around in the water," Sun, 110, said in his government-run veterans care home in the northern Taiwanese city of Taoyuan.

"Talking about it with young people now, they've not been through that time, they don't care, say it's in the past. Nobody listens," said Sun, one of the last generation in Taiwan to have fought against China and experience war.