On Tuesday 14 April 2015, 3-senior couples, Elder and Sister Moleff, Smith, and Ure and a Sister Missionary hired a tour guide Sister Shirley, a member of the church, and set out to visit the Bridge on the River Kawi. The following are a few of the 215 photos that we took on our 12 hour adventure. It all started when Japan invaded Asia and wanted to build a railroad from Bangkok to Burma to avoid naval warfare. We learned a lot - much of which was not very pleasant.
During World War 2, the Japanese used Allied prisoners of war to build a railway from Thailand to Burma so they could supply their army without the dangers of sending supplies by sea. Many prisoners died under appalling conditions during its construction, and the line became known as the 'Death Railway'. It was immortalized in David Lean's 1957 film 'The Bridge on the River Kwai' which centers around one of the line's main engineering feats, the bridge across the Kwae Yai river just north of Kanchanburi. Although the film was shot in Sri Lanka, the Bridge on the River Kwai really exists, and still carries regular passenger trains from Bangkok as far as Nam Tok.
The Death Railway starts at Nong Pladuk, a junction on the Bangkok to Singapore main line some 80km west of Bangkok. The line heads northwest to Kanchanburi, over the Bridge on the River Kwai, along the Kwae Noi ('Little Kwai') and over the Wampo Viaduct to Nam Tok, the current terminus for passenger trains. From Nam Tok, the disused track bed heads on to Konyu Cutting ('Hellfire Pass') and through the Three Pagodas Pass into Burma (Myanmar) and onwards to Moulmein. The Japanese used Thai forced labour to construct the section from Nong Pla Duk to Kanchanaburi, and Allied prisoners of war for the section from Kanchanaburi onwards to Burma. The line was completed in 1943, and like all the railways in Burma and Thailand, it was built to the metre gauge, much narrower than European standard gauge. Passenger trains still run from Bangkok to Nam Tok, but the section from Nam Tok to Moulmein is disused and the track has been lifted.
The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Burma–Siam Railway, the Thailand–Burma Railway and similar names, was a 415 kilometres (258 mi) railway between Ban Pong, Thailand, and Thanbyuzayat, Burma, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943, to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II. This railway completed the railroad link between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon). The line was closed in 1947, but the section between Nong Pla Duk and Nam Tok was reopened ten years later in 1957.
Forced labour was used in its construction. More than 180,000—possibly many more—Asian civilian labourers (romusha) and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Of these, estimates of romusha deaths are little more than guesses, but probably about 90,000 died. 12,621 Allied POWs died during the construction. The dead POWs included 6,904 British personnel, 2,802 Australians, 2,782 Dutch, and 133 Americans.
After the end of World War II, 111 Japanese and Koreans were tried for war crimes because of their brutalization of POWs during the construction of the railway. 32 were sentenced to death.
The project aimed to connect Ban Pong in Thailand with Thanbyuzayat in Burma, linking up with existing railways at both places. Its route was through the Three Pagodas Pass on the border of Thailand and Burma. 69 miles (111 km) of the railway were in Burma and the remaining 189 miles (304 km) were in Thailand. The movement of POWs northward from Changi prison in Singapore and other prison camps in Southeast Asia began in May 1942. After preliminary work of airfields and infrastructure, construction of the railway began in Burma on 15 September 1942 and in Thailand in November. The projected completion date was December 1943. Most of the construction materials, including tracks and sleepers, were brought from dismantled branches of Malaya's Federated Malay States Railway network and the East Indies' various rail networks.
The Burma railway was an impressive accomplishment. As an American engineer said after viewing the project, “What makes this an engineering feat is the totality of it, the accumulation of factors. The total length of miles, the total number of bridges — over 600, including six to eight long-span bridges — the total number of people who were involved (one-quarter of a million), the very short time in which they managed to accomplish it, and the extreme conditions they accomplished it under. They had very little transportation to get stuff to and from the workers, they had almost no medication, they couldn’t get food let alone materials, they had no tools to work with except for basic things like spades and hammers, and they worked in extremely difficult conditions — in the jungle with its heat and humidity. All of that makes this railway an extraordinary accomplishment.”
The total freight carried during the war was 500,000 tonnes and two Japanese Army divisions. Even without accounting for the deaths and deprivation of romusha, prisoners and Japanese this is a poor return for the effort of the railway's construction and indicates that the railway was a strategic failure.
|Entrance to War Museum|
|Notice the flags on top that represent the countries of the soldiers mentioned in the war museum|
|The War Museum was located in a typical hut shown in the photo. The prisons had 24" of personal space to sleep on. The museum showed photographs and drawings of the physical condition of the prisoners. Photos were not allowed.|
|Sisters Smith and Moleff|
|Photo of River Kwai just behind Sister Smith and Moleff|
|Getting ready to get in our boat for a river cruise to the Bridge over the River Kawi|
|A scene on the River|
|Mountains overlooking the river|
|Our happy boat captain|
|The rebuilt bridge over the River Kawi behind Elder and Sister Moleff|
|A view from the bridge of a Wat|
|Elder and Sister Ure and Moleff waiting for the train|
|Train ride along the river to a cave were prisoners tried to hide from the Japanese|
|Inside the train.|
|Notice we were seated in the right section|
|This is for the farmers back in Prosser. We asked our guide what these plants are? She said "sweet potatoes" We said No. So what are they???|
|Can you recognize the air conditioning system? Hint, look at the open windows and fans on the ceiling.|
|A view of the River Kwai from the train|
|Were we had a delightful lunch|
|On our way to the cave we passed a group of young monks who came to worship in the cave|