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Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, River Kwai & Hellfire Pass


Caller.
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In view of the fact we are approaching remembrance Sunday, I Thought I'd post about my trip to the above. It's photo heavy and most of the text is copied from posts I made elsewhere. 

Today, on facebook, I saw a young lady delighting in setting fire to a poppy. There are lads buried in Kanchanaburi from various Countries of a similar age. What is wrong with these people?

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

Kanchanaburi is a City west and to the north of Bangkok famous for the Bridge over the River Kwai. It's also where a lot of captured allied servicemen and forced labour from various SE Asian countries met their death building the notorious death railway for the Japanese in WW2. The Japanese wanted to connect Thailand to Burma's west coast, thus avoiding a risky and lengthy sea voyage around the Malay peninsula. Unfortunately there are mountains in the way. It's a 2 hour plus drive from Bangkok.

It was my 3rd visit and certainly won't be my last. My sister Rita and brother in law John were making a whistle stop tour with a loose agenda and Pam organised a van and driver to take us there.

First stop was the war cemetery where over 5000 commonwealth (Brits, aussie and kiwi's) and Dutch armed forces were laid to rest. The Commonwealth troops were captured elsewhere (Singapore etc) and either marched here at night or else packed onto crammed trains to get there. Inevitably, not all survived the journey. The Dutch were brought to Thailand from Indonesia where they had been captured by the Japanese. Likewise, the forced labour came from other Countries in the area. They suffered the highest death rates, followed by the Brits and then the Australians. 

It's a beautiful and serene oasis of calm, in what is now central Kanchanaburi. It's immaculately maintained by a local workforce who obviously take great pride in what they do, which is no mean feat in the heat here.

Anyway, some pics. I found the inscriptions on some of the headstones very poignant. We even found one with my surname. The commonwealth troops are buried together, there is no separation by nation. The Dutch are buried in a separate area. There are two further was cemeteries that bear the graves of those who died building the railway, both in Burma, I plan to visit them at some stage, but this is the largest. And these are just from those recovered from various graves after the war.

 

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22 minutes ago, wrenny1969 said:

Terrible that the poppy campaign seems to offend more each year. Thanks for the images and narrative.

People who are `offended` by the poppy campaign aren`t wired up right, why is it that its only in recent years people are offended by allsorts of stuff that wouldnt have even registered years ago, %$@*&&? snowflake millenials.

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Bridge on the River Kwai

Sadly, the bridge wasn't blown up by a dying Alec Guinness, but was instead bombed by allied forces. In 1948 the Japanese were made to rebuild it, but in a location better suited to the needs of the people of Kanchanaburi, so it's a little downstream from the original location, but remains a single track railway bridge.

It's a huge tourist draw for Thai's and others from all over the World. A museum is in a nearby temple and the war cemetery is a few minutes drive away. The date on the plaque on the railway spur, pictured, is the Thai date for 1948, for some reason, their calendar is 543 years ahead of ours!

 

If you can, arranging your own transport rather than joining one of the numerous tour buses from Bangkok is a good thing, as you can avoid the hordes, We planned to take a trip on the train that crosses the bridge and after a short while passes over the ramparts built by the POW's and still in use today. But my brother in law and sister were so engrossed in the museum next to the cemetery, that we missed the train. Another time. I rode on it back in 1992!

 

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My BIL, an aussie, crossing the bridge.

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Views from the bridge.

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The other side of the bridge.

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One thing that always strikes me is how Americans and the Anzacs seem to do more to commemorate their war dead here. Much more than the Brits, Canadians and others. In particular, the American ex-forces living in Thailand are very well organised and seem to get a lot more support than others, This is to the side of the bridge.

 

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Edited by Caller.
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Hellfire Pass

Hellfire pass is about an hour's drive north of Kanchanaburi and is where the single track railway line had to be carved through solid rock. Not good news for the POW's.

Sadly, when we got there, we couldn't enter the pass itself (hellfire pass being the name that a much larger pass has become known by), due to recent heavy rain and a subsequent risk of landslides.

The information centre here is excellent, with filmed interviews with survivors and all the details needed to bring home the sheer horror of what took place. It was built and paid for by Australia and is thus, centred on their troops and survivors, whilst obviously paying homage to others.

Each year, the Anzacs hold a ceremony on Anzac day in the pass itself in commemoration of those who lost their lives. Will definitely return to see more of the pass itself.

The area itself is staggeringly beautiful but was hell on Earth for the POW's. The pass was carved by POW's using hand tools to enable dynamite to be used. When you see and hear the stories and pictures of the suffering that took place, it's amazing anyone survived. I will add to this when I actually re-visit and walk the length of the pass. This was my first visit here and I think it would be a full day to walk the pass and absorb all that is in the information centre. . 

But all we could do when we were there, was to peer into what could be seen from a couple of viewpoints, where the pass was physically blocked off. This was the route of the railway.

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Personal memorials are left everywhere

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This is just before entering the pass, where the railway was laid along a cliff edge. You can see one of the boulders that were removed to enable this.

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The next three pics were taken from the steps leading from the visitor centre down to the pass. For those with mobility issues, electronic buggy's are driven down to the pass. I was surprised to see a road down there.

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Edited by Caller.
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4 minutes ago, sabailand said:

Once went there many years ago, it was quite a sobering experience looking at all the war graves and it admittedly brought a lump in my throat!

That was well over twenty years ago and i would imagine things like the museum etc will have change somewhat.

Yes, when I was first there in '92 I recall it was hosted in portacabins!  

Now:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JEATH_War_Museum

I have still to visit. I was trying to manoeuvre my sister and BIL from the museum by the cemetery to here, but to no avail.  

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Just now, Caller. said:

Yes, when I was first there in '92 I recall it was hosted in portacabins!  

Now:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/JEATH_War_Museum

I have still to visit. I was trying to manoeuvre my sister and BIL from the museum by the cemetery to here, but to no avail.  

I do remember going on a train ride and a boat ride also, just to try give you a feel for the place i suppose, although it was primarily for tourists it was still an interesting day of war history.

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6 hours ago, Caller. said:

In 1948 the Japanese were made to rebuild it, but in a location better suited to the needs of the people of Kanchanaburi, so it's a little downstream from the original location, but remains a single track railway bridge.

My grandfather (who owned the watch in the WRUW thread today) was the British Army Royal Engineer in charge of that work.

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