Monday, February 18, 2013

Remembering The Fallen In Kanchanaburi

Dave and I travelled up to Kanchanaburi by bus from Bangkok, and after settling on a guesthouse on the river's edge, we set off to take in the significance of this Thai town.  I think it took me the whole visit to get to a point where I said the town's name properly!

Firstly, we went through the Death Railway Museum, which gave us a good overview of what went on here and on the construction of the railway line all the way across the border to Burma. Part of the Japanese World War II campaign to open up a way of getting supplies through, 60,000 Allied Prisoners of War and 180,000 Asian labourers were enslaved to build the line under the most hideous of conditions.

Across the road is the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, where 2,815 Australian POWs who lost their lives during the construction have been laid to rest. 6,318 English POWs' graves occupy half of this cemetery, whilst the remaining plots are Dutch, New Zealander and Canadian, with many simply marked "An Allied Soldier". The US actually suffered the highest of the Allied POW losses, however their soldiers were repatriated for burial after the Japanese surrender.

Walking through the rows of Aussies, it was as moving as that experience at Anzac Cove, with so many lads around my age, killed in such unimaginable circumstances.

Many headstones held messages from family at home, and listed where the men were from. I spotted one woman buried here too, a volunteer within the medical unit. So many deaths were due to sickness, starvation, and also the brutality during the "Speedo" phase of construction, when the Japanese started to panic about their timelines for the completion of the railway, and things became more brutal.

So senseless. The world never seems to learn about the pointlessness of war.

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