In November 2008, my long awaited time had come when together with my wife, her sister and husband; we set off on our trip to Thailand. A couple of days after our arrival, after the usual shopping forays, we were met at our hotel in Bangkok and set off through the hectic traffic that is Bangkok, and made our way westward to the province of Kanchanaburi and the Kwai river Bridge.
After a ride that seemed an eternity, in fact about 2 ½ - 3 hours, we arrived at the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery at Kanchanaburi.
Arriving at the cemetery, we pulled up a good 15 minutes before the tourist buses had a chance to arrive and unload their passengers, also eagerly anxious to visit this historic site.
This was my first visit to a Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery, upon passing through the gates and stepping onto the freshly mown grass, I saw for the first time, row upon row of immaculately tended flowered headstones.
It is difficult for me to describe my true feelings but, I immediately felt a sense of sadness and of being humbled, humbled in the knowledge that these mostly young men, men who had been sent thousands of miles from home, would die in this lonely place so that I and others like me could enjoy the lifestyle we have today.
I was also fortunate enough to take a train ride from the Kwai River Bridge Station, across the infamous bridge and to the end of the line, still some 1 hours drive to the night mare that would become known as “Hellfire Pass”.
Hellfire Pass and the death railway would become hell on earth for the many thousands of British, Australian, New Zealand, Dutch, American and Asian slave labourers forced to construct a railway line 415 km long to link Kanchanaburi base camp to one in Burma, such railway line was constructed to ensure a safe re supply line for the Japanese, such supply line was required for an eventual attack on India.
We arrived at the newly constructed memorial and museum, constructed by the Australian and Thai Governments, (Being of British stock and now resident in Australia, I wondered why the British Government hadn’t participated in this important project) we made our way, after purchasing water for the return walk, (Uphill) to the railway line.
After a walk of approximately 5 to 10 minutes, we had made our way, again courtesy of the Aust and Thai Govt, down a newly erected walkway to the Konyu Cutting (Hellfire Pass). Numerous memorials have been erected at the pass; the most recently erected one was still adorned with Laurel Wreaths as we had visited only a couple of days after Remembrance Day.
I have previously written of my sadness and of being humbled at the site of the final resting place of so many soldiers, arriving at the site of the demise of so many of these men, brings even more sadness and sorrow, standing alone in the cutting, you can almost hear the sound of the chiseling, banging and shouting, and, seeing grown men who are nothing but skin and bone in lap laps.
Please enjoy my photographs and remember,
“LEST WE FORGET”
Above is a complete photo slide of my visit to Thailand, please click on the badge at centre to select the albums and pages.
Rolls for the Thailand-Burma Railway