We took a taxi from Oriental Kwai, where we were staying, to The Hell Fire Pass Memorial.
It’s known locally as the Museum of Chong Khao Kad and is the area where POW’s and labourers during WWII were forced to carve through a mountain of rock to enable a train to pass. The Japanese needed a more secure route to maintain their armies in Burma so a decision was made to construct a railway 415 kilometres long through dense jungle and mountain from BanPong in Thailand to Thanbyuzayat. (This information is taken from the booklet provided by the Australian Government’s Department of Veterans’ Affairs). Of the 60,000 Allied POW’s who worked on the railway 20% died between October 1942 and August 1945 with an estimate of 90,000 civilian labourers having perished during that time also.
Admission is free to both the Memorial museum and the walking trail taking you along part of the the Death Railway. The Museum is excellent but tough viewing with graphic stories, memorabilia, first-hand accounts and pictures of the terrible conditions suffered by the POW’s and labourers. It’s hard to imagine how anyone survived …
Many of the tourists arrive at the Museum by coach and don’t have time to walk the 4km from the Museum to the end of the walking trail. Most people therefore walk as far as the monument at the end of notorious Hell Fire Pass and walk up to the look-out which gives you a view looking down on the Pass. We carried on through to the end of the trail which is just 4km. All that time we only saw a handful of people and quite a lot of evidence of the tools used and some of the original tracks. Not one sound of a bird singing. All along where once the railway lines ran was eerily quiet.
Our taxi driver was waiting for us when we arrived at the end of the trail and took us to Namtock railway station to catch the train back to Kanchanaburi. It’s an interesting journey especially going over the wooden viaduct that overlooks the River Kwai. I sat on the outside steps by the door to take a picture of the viaduct, couldn’t do this on GWR!
The visit had been a very emotional one but we were so glad we went.
The first part of the walk has several flags and crosses of remembrance lined each side of the cutting.
The notorious Hell Fire Pass. The tree has become almost a monument to the thousands who died cutting through the rock.
The Memorial to the POW’s and labourers who suffered extreme hardship with thousands losing their lives. The smaller pictures were taken along the walking trail.
Evidence in the rocks where the explosives were placed also metal taps, sledgehammers and other tools used to break down the earth and rock. Not sure what the bamboo canes were used for in the r.h. middle picture.
Railway sleepers still marking the Burma-Thailand death railway.
This must have been a tantalising view for the POW’s as they worked. The mountains in the distance are in Burma.
More evidence of the railway line.
Thie is the end of the walking trail just past Compressor Cutting. Our driver is waiting for us, you can just make him out. We were grateful for the bottles of ice-cold water he had ready for us.
On the right is the wooden viaduct we’ve just come over on the train.
The War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi. All the POWs who died were reinterred here by the Commonwealth Graves Commission apart from the American POWs whose remains were returned to the U.S.