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  • Kanchanaburi : Death Railway

    Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) today

    Since 1945 prisoners of war and the captured by the Japanese when they conquered South East Asia in early 1942. More than a third of these men and women died in captivity. This was about 20 per cent of all Australian deaths in World War II. The shock and scale of these losses affected families and communities across the nation of only 7 million people.

    This website focuses on Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting), the deepest and most dramatic of the many cuttingsBritish Empire, Dutch and colonial personnel from the Netherlands East Indies and a small number of US troops sunk on the USS Houston during the Battle of Java Sea. About 13 000 of the prisoners who worked on the railway were Australian.

    When this workforce proved incapable of meeting the tight deadlines the Japanese had set for completing the railway, a further 200 000 Asian labourers or rōmusha (the precise number is not known) were enticed or coerced into working for the Japanese

    The 415-kilometre railway ran from Thanbyuzayat in Burma (now Myanmar) to Non Pladuk in Thailand. It was constructed by units working along its entire length rather than just from each end. This meant that the already difficult problems of supply became impossible during the monsoonal season of mid-1943.

    Starved of food and medicines, and forced to work impossibly long hours in remote unhealthy locations, over 12 000 POWs, including more than 2700 Australians, died. The number of rōmusha dead is not known but it was probably up to 90 000.

    Remembering the railway

    All memory is selective. Communities, like individuals, remember some stories of the past while forgetting others. For memories to survive at the collective or national levelAustraliansThe Naked Island (1951), for example, sold well over a million copies and stayed in print for decades.

    There were also memorable fictional accounts of captivity, some of which were adapted for commercial films and television series. The most famous of these was The Bridge on the River Kwai which, though bearing little resemblance to events in 1942-43, generated a popular interest in the railway which continues to this day.

    In the 1980s Australian ex-POWs returned to Thailand and reclaimed Hellfire Passdemolished after World War II. The cutting soon became a site of memory for many Australians, particularly on Anzac Day. Its dramatic scale and its towering walls, scarred with drill incisions made by hand, spoke particularly vividly to the hardships endured by POWs along the railway.

    The building of the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museumbridges and embankments were needed to keep the railway route along the escarpment level. There were also many camps housing the thousands of workers, including Australians. These have now disappeared into the exquisitely beautiful landscape but this website reclaims them as witnesses to the POW story.

    The Anzac legend and Australian memory
    medical personnel who, with little equipment or medicines, cared for desperately ill men in primitive hospitalsDunlop. His statue now stands outside the Australian War Memorial, Canberra, not so far from another iconic image of compassion, Simpson and his donkey. Although Dunlop was only one of 106 Australian POW medical officers, in recent years he has come to represent them all ‒ and the values of courage and compassion that they and many Australians manifested in captivity.

  • #2
    Death Railway Expedition

    walking the 300km route the F force where forced to march as POWS in WWIIPrisoner Of War Facts

    * There were more than 140000 POWs during WWII

    * A roster of just their names and first initials would fill a book of 450 pages

    * Complete names would fill a book the size of Gone With the Wind

    * Name, rank, serial number and a single sentence about what happened to them, those who survived and all those who did not, would fill a book the size of war and peace four times over

    * The POWs who died at the hands of the Japanese have no single monument

    * The POWs names carved in stone would cover a mass of granite that could stand beside the Vietnam Veterans Memorial and not be overshadowed

    * If the war had lasted another year there would not have been a POW left alive

    * Building of the Thai-Burma Railway was the biggest sustained POW atrocity of the Pacific War

    * Any white captive was a prisoner not only in a Japanese Camp but in Asia. His skin was a prison uniform he could never take off

    * Along the 250 mile stretch of railway track, the total number of POW labourers was more than 61000. About 30000were British, 18000 were Dutchmen or Indonesian Dutch, 13000 were Australian and about 650 American

    * About 45% of all prisoners of the Japanese worked on the railroad. It was the biggest single use of POWs

    * The POWs on the Burma-Thailand railway had to deal with no running water, no soap, no toothpaste, shaved heads, no toilet paper, dysentery, malaria, tinea, Vitamin D Deficiency, burning feet, bed bugs, cholera and so much more

    How to Stay Alive on the MarchGeneva Convention 1929


    • #3
      documentary about the building of the railroad, including interviews with survivors. Unfortunately, you have to speak or read Thai to get the specifics.


      • #4

        The history of the Bridge on the River Kwairōmusha[Photo: Kim: McKenzie]

        Three museums are privately owned and managed by Thais. These include the JEATH museumWorld War II and JEATH MuseumBoonpong Sirivejjabhand.

        The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, above the famous Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting), in contrast, was established by the Australian government in 1998 with the cooperation of the Thai government.

        Each of these museums serves a different purpose and offers a different experience for the visitor. The Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, for instance, as its name suggests, is a place of reflection as well as an interpretive centre providing the historical context for visitors to the cutting below.

        The most comprehensive introduction to the building of the railway is offered by the [Photo: Kim McKenzie][Photo: Kim McKenzie]Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum[Photo: Kim McKenzie] http://hellfire-pass.commemoration.g...he-railway.php


        • #5
          Had a run out there in a taxi one day while in bkk some years back.

          Always wanted to check it out as I knew a couple of guys who survived it, and having seen the classic film about it several times.

          The cemetery, museum, bridge, and opposite side of the river were really humbling sobering experiences, and well worth the effort.

          Felt honoured to be there, when there are so many people in the world with more connection to it than me, that can only talk about it.

          Think the middle sections of the bridge were not the original.


          • #6
            Originally posted by MrBlobby View Post
            Felt honoured to be there, when there are so many people in the world with more connection to it than me, that can only talk about it.
            I'm sure you mean well Mr Blobby but myself as someone who has visited Kanchanaburi on many
            occasions has never felt honoured to be there.
            How can there be honour in the abject misery and conditions these poor wretches of POWs had to suffer under the Japanese.
            It would be akin to someone who said that they felt honoured to be there after visiting Auschwitz or Belsen.
            These places only serve to be graphic reminders of man's inhumanity to man.

            Honouring these men who were reduced to poor scraps of humanity and died or were killed as a result of it on ''Remembrance day'' is our way of saying that we haven't forgotten them and honour their memory which is entirely different altogether.


            • #7
              Australian in Thailand devotes life to 'Death Railway' POWs
              DENIS D. GRAY
              Aug 10

              In this June 18, 2015, photo, Rod Beattie uses a machete to clear a walking path along what was the Death Railway in Nam Tok, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand. As the 70th anniversary of World War II's end approaches and its veterans dwindle by the day, Beattie, an Australian, still slogs along the 415 kilometer (257 mile) length of Death Railway where more than 100,000 Allied prisoners and Asians were enslaved by Japan's Imperial Army to build the line. With his own money, he maps its vanishing course, uncovers POW relics and with his vast database helps brings closure to relatives of those who perished and survivors who went to their graves never having shared their traumas.
              (AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

              NAM TOK, Thailand (AP) -- Wielding a machete, Rod Beattie slashes at tangled undergrowth and soaring bamboo to expose vistas from one of World War II's iconic sagas. Out of the jungle appear remnants of a railway that cost the lives of more than 100,000 Allied prisoners and Asians enslaved by Japan's Imperial Army.

              As the 70th anniversary of the war's end approaches and its veterans dwindle by the day, the aging Australian still slogs along the 415-kilometer (257-mile) length of "Death Railway." With his own money, he maps its vanishing course, uncovers POW relics and with his vast database helps brings closure to relatives of the dead - not only those who perished building the railway, but also those who went to their graves never having shared their traumas.

              Beattie acknowledges to being a man obsessed.

              "The life I have given isn't just for them but for their descendants," he says. "Their children are now at an age where they have retired. They've got time to ask questions - `Where was my father? What happened to him?'" And many, bringing along their own children and even grandchildren, are making what Beattie calls pilgrimages to the railway to seek answers, find peace and shed tears.

              One daughter he escorted was able to learn for the first time exactly where her father, Pvt. Jack McCarthy, died on July 21, 1943, of what diseases and where he was initially buried.

              Then Beattie took her to his final resting place, beneath a headstone brightened by a single poppy. Another daughter recently came fixated on whether wild bananas contained black seeds the POWs would suck for sustenance. It was something her father often recounted. When they found some, it seemed to authenticate and illuminate all that her father told her about his ordeal.

              "It made her very happy," Beattie said.

              Arguably the world's authority on this drama of inhumanity and courage in a green hell, this one-man band has also busted myths and plain inaccuracies that have accumulated around the railway. Some are drawn from a still-ongoing parade of memoirs, novels and films, from the classic 1957 movie classic "The Bridge on the River Kwai" to "The Railway Man" in 2013 and "The Narrow Road to the Deep North," a novel that won Britain's top literary prize last year.

              He's driven, he says, "for history's sake. To give people a true version of the story. After I leave or pass away, who would otherwise know where the railway was?"

              Beattie, 67, clambers down a steep slope where the track has been replaced by a rolling field of tapioca. Within 15 minutes, aided by a metal detector and pickax, he uncovered 11 relics under the reddish soil, including railway staples and bolts. He also gathered clues to the location of a labor camp, Tampii South, that he has yet to pinpoint.

              Tampii South was among a string of POW camps along the railway, which the Japanese regarded as a strategic supply line from Japanese-controlled Thailand to their forces in Myanmar as Allied warships made the sea route around the Malay Peninsula increasingly hazardous. Completed in 15 months, the railway was an incredible feat of engineering and human toil.

              More than 12,000 Australian, British, Dutch and American prisoners died along with an estimated 90,000 Asians, including Tamils from Malaysia, Burmese and Indonesians - some 250 corpses for every kilometer of track. Working with primitive tools and their bare hands, the prisoners succumbed to cholera, beriberi, starvation, executions and despair.

              A civil engineer in Australia, Beattie arrived in Thailand in 1990 to work as a consultant in the gems industry. He settled in the western Thailand town of Kanchanaburi, a key railway terminus and site of the infamous bridge on the River Kwai. His passion was kindled by the history around him and his own background: two of his uncles had been killed and his father twice wounded in World War II. Beattie himself served in the Australian military for six years.

              In the mid-1990s, with machetes and chain saws, he and his Vietnamese wife, Thuy, eight months pregnant, cleared 4.5 kilometers (2 miles) of rail bed at a rock cutting known as Hellfire Pass, paving the way for a memorial and museum there. In 2003, he opened the Thailand-Burma Railway Center in Kanchanaburi, both a research facility and a superb museum incorporating some of the thousands of artifacts he had uncovered.

              Although Japanese atrocities are graphically depicted, it is not a mere museum of horrors. Japanese soldiers also suffered hardships and savage commanders, and not all are portrayed as brutes. The exhibits include rare photographs provided by a Japanese engineer on the railway.

              Beattie has corrected misconceptions about the railway that had made it into a number of history books, including some that flatly state that Japanese guards killed 68 Australian POWs at Hellfire Pass. He proved that the guards killed no Australians there by going through a database of 105,000 records of nearly every prisoner in Southeast Asia.

              Beattie found that Allied POW records were so sketchy that some relatives even had false information about where their fathers died. He said the index cards that Japan's Imperial Army kept on every POW sometimes have proved more helpful than Australian officialdom. He also dug into archives around the world including hospital and burial records, cemetery maps, regimental documents and diaries to reconstruct the tortured odysseys of thousands. He offers them to any who want to know, and has received decorations from Australia, the Netherlands and Great Britain for his work.

              Beattie's ongoing work includes a detailed GPS mapping of the entire rail line that in Thailand is 60 percent completed. Earlier, logging more than 3,000 kilometers (1,860 miles) on foot, he plotted the Thai end and some of the Myanmar stretch on a 1:50,000 map.
              "Probably when I die," he says when asked when he'll halt his self-imposed mission.

              Beattie's labors seem a race against the clock: The railway is vanishing along with those who built it.

              Over the past two decades, he says, most sections disappeared, overtaken by the jungle or covered over by farms, roads and a large dam. In Australia, only some 200 ex-railway POWs are still alive; worldwide, the youngest one Beattie knows about is 89. Only two survivors attended commemorations this year in Kanchanaburi on ANZAC Day, April 25, the national day of remembrance in Australia and New Zealand. In times past, there might be dozens.

              But earlier in the year, 34 Australians, mostly children of POWs, gathered at the main Allied cemetery in Kanchanaburi town for a simple, moving service among the 6,982 graves. Some wore the medals of fathers they never knew: They were conceived before their fathers left for war or were simply too young to remember them. They sought information from Beattie.

              It was the first trip to the River Kwai for Elizabeth Pietsch, whose father died in 2013 at the age of 95.

              "He never talked about it very much, but when he did, tears would well up in his eyes," she said. "He went on to be a chartered accountant, a very successful man, but it was always there, the elephant in the room... It was the defining time of his life."



              • #8

                Liam Croy
                October 23, 2015

                Picture: Simon Santi


                • #9
                  Low life every place. They don't give a dam about anyone. Pity for the poor old boy, survived on of the worst hell on earth situations, deserves better.


                  • #10
                    Spare us the neverending hyperbole.
                    Chinese suffered horrors many times worse than the allied prisoners.
                    I don't see them reduced to waxing in faux outrage at the inconceivable inhumanity every time the subject is broached.
                    Last edited by Texpat; 10-23-2015, 10:55 AM.


                    • #11
                      Life and death on the Thai-Burma railway

                      Seventy years after he was freed, an Australian prisoner of war looks back on his harrowing experience in the jungle in World War II.

                      720 ABC PerthJohn McGlue on 720 ABC Perth.

                      Taken prisoner

                      Milton "Snow" Fairclough in 2015 and a photograph of him as a soldier in Beirut in 1941.

                      (720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne; Supplied: Milton Fairclough)

                      Snow Fairclough was born in Moora, in Western Australia's Wheatbelt, in 1920 and left school at 14.

                      At the outbreak of war in 1939 he joined the Army's 2/3rd Machine Gun Battalion and was posted to Palestine and Syria.

                      After Japan entered the war his battalion was recalled to Australia, but a stopover in Java proved fateful.

                      "We thought we would only be there a day or two but unfortunately they decided, as a gesture to the Dutch, that the whole of our Dunlop group would be left on Java to give the Dutch a hand," Mr Fairclough recalled.

                      Shortly afterwards, the unit was taken prisoner and transported first to Changi prison in Singapore then to Thailand to work on the railway.

                      "I remember our last train trip across, it took about five days. There were 30 of us to a van and they had the van closed all the time," he said.

                      "A big majority of us had malaria and dysentery even then, so it was a pretty miserable five days."

                      Left: POWs suffering from dysentery relieve themselves while on a break from the train journey to Thailand in 1943. Right: Australian prisoners of war clad only in loincloths chopping and sawing wood in 1944.

                      (Supplied: Australian War Memorial)

                      The unit ended up at Hintok camp in Thailand, building the section of the railway that the soldiers came to call Hellfire Pass through the mountains.

                      "The hardest part was to cut the jungle down and get a cut into the mountain to make a base to lay your track on," he said.

                      "That was hellish and difficult. The tools we had were not good.

                      "The position you are in leaves you sort of hanging on by your toenails and hands while you are sawing.

                      "You would just look at the mountain and you would be looking 50 yards up. That was where we lost a hell of a lot of lives."

                      The Lizard and the lowest point

                      The interior of a POW hospital hut on the Burma-Thailand railway in 1943; Colonel Edward "Weary" Dunlop (right) in Thailand shortly after the end of the war.

                      (Supplied: Australian War Memorial)
                      One-fifth of the prisoners of war forced to build the Thai-Burma railway died.

                      (Supplied: Australian War Memorial) Survival

                      A postcard sent to Milton Fairclough in the POW camp by his parents in May 1945.

                      (Supplied: Milton Fairclough)

                      A total of 12,000 Allied troops died as prisoners of war on the railway.

                      Mr Fairclough said he often wondered how he survived.

                      "I had particularly good mates and we stuck together through thick and thin," he said.

                      "I think if you didn't have a mate you wouldn't have got through.

                      "[I survived with] just a bit of help and encouragement from them and a grim determination not to bloody well die in a place like that; to die like a slave in the jungle."

                      On August 6, 1945 the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima and three days later on Nagasaki.

                      On August 15, Emperor Hirohito announced the surrender of Japan to the allies.

                      The news did not reach the Dunlop men labouring in the jungle until August 28.

                      "The early morning of the 28th we heard somebody walking up the line and we thought, 'Christ, early start', but it turned out to be one of our own officers and he had a machine gun slung across his chest and a big revolver," Mr Fairclough said.

                      "He said, 'the war's over for you blokes. The war is finished'.

                      "That was my 25th birthday and I always celebrate my birthday as being the day that I knew for good and certain that the bloody war had eventually finished.

                      "I think how lucky we were that the atom bomb was dropped, because that stopped the invasion of Japan.

                      "Had there been an invasion of Japan there wouldn't have been any POWs, the whole lot of us would have been annihilated."

                      Nightmares and reconciliation

                      Milton "Snow" Fairclough's letters and photos from his time as a POW.

                      (720 ABC Perth: Emma Wynne) Hear the full interview with Milton "Snow" Fairclough on Soundcloud:

                      SoundCloud: Milton "Snow" Fairclough speaks to John McGlue on 720 ABC Perth

                      Interview: John McGlue



                      • #12
                        if I knew, I'd bottle it and sell it

                        'Death Railway' veteran reaches 100 against the odds
                        Alice Walker

                        Harold Martin re-visited the Thai-Burma railway in 2012, where he had been a prisoner of war during WWII.
                        (Supplied: Samm Blake)

                        From the Thai-Burma railway to a sunken hell ship, a WWII veteran who was saved by his curly fair hair is turning 100 on January 1.

                        "I am very lucky," Harold Martin said.

                        "Even with my war experience, I think I've had a pretty easy and fortunate life."

                        Mr Martin's war was a fraught one after coming face-to-face with death many times.

                        He survived the Thai-Burma railway, known as the "Death Railway", a torpedoed "hell ship" and four days floating in the sea so his 100th birthday is all the more extraordinary.

                        The West Australian veteran, born on January 1, 1917, was one of an estimated 15,000 Australian soldiers captured by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore in 1942.

                        He was sent to work on building the railway along with thousands of Allied prisoners, that would eventually link Thailand and Burma.

                        Mr Martin was a POW on the Thai-Burma railway during WWII.
                        (Supplied: Morris Blake)

                        "I learnt very early in the piece not to make eye contact with a guard," Mr Martin said of his POW experience.

                        "If you did, he'd come over and he'd always find some reason to hit you. Looking back, I can't really understand how we were able to do it.

                        "The Japanese had a system of judging: if you had a fever and you were shaking they would let you stay in camp, but if you were not shaking you went out to work.

                        "And quite often we had to carry men out on a stretcher to work."

                        Mr Martin said the Australians stuck together, completing each other's work to cover for those who were sick.

                        "As long as the work was done, the Japanese were satisfied," he said.

                        Many of his friends did not survive.

                        Mr Martin spent time remembering his friends buried at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand in 2012.
                        (Supplied: Morris Blake)

                        From the Death Railway, he was sent on one of the so-called "hell ships" to be used as slave labour in Japan.

                        The ship never made it; it was torpedoed twice by an American submarine, although it took about eight hours to sink.

                        The Japanese troops took a lifeboat and left Mr Martin and the 1,159 other POWs behind to launch themselves into the water on one of the many rafts.

                        Mr Martin and a group floated for two days before they collided with the faster-moving deckhouse of the ship and moved onto it.

                        Saved from sea by curly hair
                        He and another POW swam over to the ship and spoke to a crewman.

                        "He said to the captain, 'They're English!' and my mate said 'No we're not, we're Australians'," Mr Martin recalled.

                        Milestone birthday a stroke of luck
                        Mr Martin never expected to reach 100 years.
                        (ABC News: William Marwick)

                        "You were never alone. There was always someone there to help you."

                        At the age of 95, Mr Martin went back to Thailand and Myanmar (formerly Burma) to visit the graves of his friends.

                        He marched for the first time Anzac Centenary parade in Albany, where he now lives when he was 97.

                        These days, he enjoys meeting his friends for a drink and a laugh, and he is expecting about 120 of his loved ones at his 100th birthday party.

                        Mr Martin said reaching the milestone was a stroke of luck too.

                        "It's one birthday I never expected to have," he said.

                        "I'm often asked what my secret is, and my answer is: look, if I knew, I'd bottle it and sell it."



                        • #13
                          Star2This is Part 1. Read more stories in Part 2.

                          Samion Ariff
                          Photo: The Star/Abdul Rahman EmbongFlight to freedom
                          Samion as a dashing policeman after the war.

                          Samion receiving his medal of honour in 1981.

                          The Death Railway Interest Group is calling for memories

                          More should be done to recognise and remember the hundreds of thousands of Malayans who suffered building the Thai-Burma Death Railway, say historians and the families of survivors.

                          Romusha working on the Death Railway at Ronsi, Burma, 1943.

                          Photo: Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum
                          Prof Teo Kok Seong believes this incident should be emphasised more in history books.

                          Photo: Filepic
                          Emaciated Romusha in a hospital at Nakom Platon, Thailand, 1945.

                          Photo: Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum
                          To contact the Death Railway Interest Group, send an e-mail to P. Chandrasekaran at [email protected] or call 017-888 7221.



                          • #14
                            A friend of my late mother and father was held in such a camp. He recalled, in tears, his shame at hitting a fellow soldier with a spade/shovel when he was ordered to bury him. He was at his lowest ebb at that time. Fortunately, he lived a happy life for many years following his release. We think we can appreciate the horror but we delude ourselves as we can never fully understand how these men suffered. Thank God for that.


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by Can123 View Post
                              A friend of my late mother and father was held in such a camp. He recalled, in tears, his shame at hitting a fellow soldier with a spade/shovel when he was ordered to bury him. He was at his lowest ebb at that time. Fortunately, he lived a happy life for many years following his release. We think we can appreciate the horror but we delude ourselves as we can never fully understand how these men suffered. Thank God for that.
                              Indeed , there but for the Grace of God , go you and I .


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