Monthly Archives: January 2008

Kanchanaburi – War Cemeteries









We visited the Kanchanaburi – War Cemetery, the resting place of thousands of POW’s who were forced into labour camps while constructing the Death Railway and Bridge On The River Kwai.

In Kanchanaburi town, there are two beautifully neatly maintained cemeteries. Both cemeteries are surrounded by beautiful gardens, well taken care by local volunteers. Flowers are often seen left on the graves by loved ones from all over the world.

We came to the cemetery in the heart of the town where they buried almost 7,000 POW’s who lost their lives in the hands of the Japanese Army, following their invasion of Thailand during World War II, when British, Dutch, Australian and American prisoners were brought to Thailand from Singapore.

A plaque reads

1939 – 1945

The Land on which this cemetery stands is the gift of the Thai people for the perpetual resting place of the sailors soldiers and airmen who are honoured here.

Chong War Cemetery

We have no time to visit The Chong Kai Cemetery, on the banks of the River Kwai. It is smaller and it buried almost 2,000 POW’s

The cemetery can be reached by boats, available at the pier in front of the town gate and also from the Bridge.

Kanchanaburi – The War Museum

The JEATH War Museum is on the bank of the River, inside Wat Chai Chumphon temple. JEATH stands for Japan, England, America, Australia, Thailand and Holland, representing the nationalities of the prisoners of war (POW’s) who were forced to work on the construction of the famous “Bridge On The River Kwai“.

This tribute was established to show actual items that were connected with the construction of the Death Railway by POW’s between 1942-1943.

The museum displays some exhibits of the terrible conditions inflicted on the many young men that died and the many that survived to tell the story. An estimated 16,000 war prisoners and over 100,000 local labourers died .









Kanchanaburi – Bridge on the River Kwai




Thousands of Allied Prisoners of War (PoW) and Asian labourers worked on the Death Railway under the imperial Japanese army in order to construct part of the 415 km long Burma-Thailand railway.

Most of these men were Australians, Dutch and British and they had been working steadily southwards from Thanbyuzayat (Burma) to link with other PoW on the Thai side of the railway.

This railway was intended to move men and supplies to the Burmese front where the Japanese were fighting the British

Both the wooden and the adjacent steel bridge were were built by the Japanese, using prisoner of war (POW) labour, which spanned the Mae Klong river (renamed Kwa Yai river in 1960).




Construction work started in October 1942. A year later the rail laying was completed. The wooden trestle bridge was completed in February 1943, and the steel bridge in April 1943

About 60,000 men consisting of Indian, Burmese, Malaysian, Indonesian, Chinese and Thai labourers as well as prisoners of war took part in the construction work.

The black iron bridge was brought from Java by the Japanese to Tamarkan in 1942.

Both bridges were subjected to numerous attacks by Allied aircraft during the period December 1944 to June 1945.. The curved spans of the bridge are the original sections. A daily train is still following the historical route from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok railway station.

Japanese army engineers selected the route which traversed deep valleys and hills. All the heavy work was done manually either by hand or by elephants as earth moving equipment was not available.

The railway line originally ran within 50 meters of the Three Pagodas Pass which marks nowadays the border to Burma. However after the war the entire railway was removed and sold as it was deemed unsafe and politically undesirable.

The prisoners lived in squalor with a near starvation diet. They were subjected to captor brutality and thus thousands perished. The men worked from dawn until after dark and often had to trudge many kilometres through the jungle to return to base camp where Allied doctors tended the injured and diseased but many died.

After the war the dead were collectively reburied in the War Cemeteries and will remain forever witness to a brutal and tragic ordeal.

Click here to view video: The Death Railway in Thailand