River Kwai Revisited

posted: 2016-10-03

Hellfire Pass

Hellfire pass is a short section on the course of the Thailand-Burma Railway, located approximately 18km from the current end of the Railway at Nam Tok, and some 70km Northwest of Kanchanaburi Town. It was one of the most difficult pieces of terrain that the railway had to pass through. Work went on 18 hours a day, dynamiting sections of rock then clearing the debris by hand. At its deepest point the cutting is around 8 meters in depth.

The main Cutting, Hellfire PassThe main Cutting, Hellfire Pass

"At night the cutting was lit by fires, lamps or diesel torches. The eerie light and shadows of guards and gaunt prisoners of war playing on the rock walls suggested the name the site was given - Hellfire Pass." (quoted from one of the numerous information tablets around the site).

The site has been cleared and dedicated as a war memorial with a museum and walking trail through the bamboo forests to the cutting itself.


Wang Pho Viaduct (Slideshow)

The most spectacular site on the remaining part of the Death Railway is Wang Pho Viaduct, where the train crawls around a cliff face, on a wooden bridge, some 30 feet above the River Kwai and some 200 yards in length. The bridge was constructed in only 20 days or so in April 1943. On this visit I walked along the track from Tham Krasae station and along the bridge itself. On the left hand side, at the start of the viaduct, is Tham Krasae cave, a natural cave with a main Buddha image, a place of merit-making for Thais.

An old print in the cafe at Tham Krasae Station just before the bridge shows the river in flood in 1971, with waters only a few feet below the railway track and a marker just after the cave shows the high-water mark from those floods.

Anzac Day

Anzac is an acronym for Australia & New Zealand Army Corps, and Anzac day originally commemorated the landing of Australian and New Zealand forces at Gallipoli on 25th April 1915. It is also closely associated with memories of the thousands of Australians and New Zealanders who lost their lives in the construction of the Burma Railway during World War 2.

Kamchanaburi War CemetaryKamchanaburi War Cemetary

Every year on Anzac Day a dawn service is held at Hellfire Pass followed by a 10 am. service at the main Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. April and May are two of the hottest months in Thailand and Allied POW's certainly worked through those months in 1943, the start of the cutting of Hellfire pass being around the time of Anzac Day.

Kanchanaburi is always crowded on this day, especially the War Cemetery. The center of the service is the laying of the wreath at the War Memorial, accompanied by the pipe band of the British Club Bangkok>.

Pipes and Drums at Kamchanaburi War CemetaryPipes and Drums

After the service, Aussie beer and snacks are served, just outside the cemetery.

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