Today marks the 70th anniversary of VJ Day which ended one of the worst episodes in British Military History and so I thought it would be a fitting occasion to write about the Thai-Burma Railway where tens of thousands of servicemen, who are today commemorated, were once enslaved by the Japanese to build it. The railway spans from Thailand to Burma and runs through the Thai province of Kanchanaburi, over the River Kwai.
It’s been about a year since I went to the ‘Death Railway’ but I remember everything that I observed there like it was yesterday, after all visiting a sight where unspeakable atrocities had once taken place will always be something that’s difficult to forget in a hurry.
The railway is a physical embodiment of the unspeakable suffering that was endured by the prisoners of war who built it – many of whom were British, Dutch, American and Australian. The wretched conditions were abominably inhumane with disease, malnutrition and abuse rife, resulting in the loss of thousands of lives during the three and a half year duration that it operated. Kanchanaraburi is now widely known for its stunning natural scenery but sitting steadfast remains the Death Railway, a stark reminder to the darker days that had come to pass in the province.
After we visited the Don-Rak War Cemetery where many of the prisoner of war fatalities are laid to rest. There’s an omnipresent sense of sadness in the air and the endless rows of headstones are an absolutely heart wrenching sight.
Visiting the Thai-Burma Railway rouses a cocktail of emotions that you would not usually associate with travelling in Thailand, the Land of Smiles but it’s a reminder of an important part of global history that I would suggest for everyone to see for themselves.