Death Railway And The Bridge
On The River Kwai
Photo taken at the Bridge on the River Kwai, Bengkok, Thailand.
My wife and I went to Bangkok for a short visit in June 2016. In fact, we have been to most of the cities in Thailand such as Phuket, Pattaya, Changmai, Hatyai, Songkhla,Geluo ..etc. This is our second visit to Bangkok. This is simply a free and easy tour, we spent most of the time to enjoy Thai cuisine and shopping . We only visit one historical place,the so-called Wat Arun or Wat Chaeng(郑王廟)
King Taksin the Great(1734 -1782) was the king of
Thonburi Kingdom and was of Thai Chinese heritage.
Wat Arun,Temple of the Dawn,Bengkok.
Wat Arun, in English means Temple of the Dawn, is situated on the west bank of the Chao Phraya River. We paid a visit to this temple during the river cruise, a free city tour package.
Wat Arun was envisioned by King Taksin in 1768. Taksin the Great(1734 -1782) was the king of Thonburi Kingdom and was of Thai Chinese heritage. He was a leader in the liberation of Siam from Burmese occupation after the Second Fall of Ayutthaya in 1767, and the subsequent unification of Siam after it fell under various warlords. He established the city Thonburi as the new capital, as the city Ayutthaya had been almost completely destroyed by the invader.
The 79 meter high Prang(Buddha Tower) is dubbed
as "The Eiffel Tower Of Thailand".
The King Taksin Monument
It is believed that after fighting his way out of Ayutthaya, which was taken over by a Burmese army at the time, he arrived at this temple just as dawn was breaking. He later had the temple renovated and renamed it Wat Chaeng, the Temple of the Dawn.
We spent about one hour there.
MBK Shopping Mall
MBK Shopping Mall, Bengkok.
MBK is an eight storey building with 2,500 outlets selling various kinds of goods
including clothing,handbags,leather products, electric appliances ..etc.
MBK Shopping Mall is probably the largest shopping centre in Bangkok. It is a 8 storey building with 2,500 outlets selling various kinds of goods including clothing,handbags,leather products,mobile phones, electric appliances ..etc. We went there twice and spent at least half day there.
Four- Faced Buddha (Erawan Shrine)
Four- Faced Buddha(or Erawan Shrine)
The Erawan Shrine is always crowded with worshipers as well as tourists.
Four Faced Buddha or Erawan Shrine , is located within the walking distance from our hotel. Every day and night we saw many worshippers surrounded the Shrine, some worshippers even came as far as from Singapore and Hong Kong to repay their respect when their prayers had come true and answered. They brought flowers and elephant sculptures and put them at the side of the Shrine. Some may also hire the traditional Thai dance troupe to perform in front of the Shrine.
I was told that the Shrine was built to ward off bad luck to the many unwanted incidences towards the construction of the then Erawan Hotel. It was always crowded with worshipers as well as tourists here.
China Town, Bengkok.
At night, China town turns into a large "food street" that
draws tourists and locals from all over the city.
Bangkok’s Chinatown is a popular tourist attraction and a food heaven. It is well known for its variety of foodstuffs and at night turns into a large "food street" that draws tourists and locals from all over the city.
The Bird’s Nest Soup
Frankly speaking,we went there simply to enjoy the Bird’s Nest Soup. As we all know that they are particularly prized in Chinese culture due to their rarity, and supposedly high nutritional value and exquisite flavor. We ,as Chinese, believe that it promotes good health, especially for the skin. The nests have been used in Chinese cooking for over 400 years, most often as Bird's Nest Soup. However, we also enjoyed the Thai cuisine after we ate the Bird’s Nest Soup.
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
On the 3rd day of our trip to Bangkok, we hired a taxi from hotel to Kanchanaburi in order to pay a visit to the notorious Death Railway and the Bridge on the River Kwai. The distance between Bangkok to Kanchanaburi is 129 km. It took more than two hours for a non-stop journey.
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
Many people are remembered in Kanchanaburi War Cemetery
Information at Entrance to War Cemetery
Upon arrival, we first visited the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. This is the main Prisoner of War (POWs) cemetery for victims of Japanese imprisonment while building the Thai-Burma Railway. There are 6,982 POWs buried there, mostly Australian, British, and Dutch. It contains the remains of prisoners buried beside the south section of the railway from Bangkok to Nieke, excepting those identified as Americans, whose remains were repatriated.
Those who have no known grave are commemorated by name at Rangoon
Singapore and Hong kong and their comrades rest in the war
cemeteries of Kanchanaburi Chungkai and Thanbyuzayat.
Tombstone sayings: "Sleep on son, Dad is proud of you".
There are 1,896 Dutch war graves, the rest being from Britain and the Commonwealth. Two graves contain the ashes of 300 men who were cremated. The Kanchanaburi Memorial gives the names of 11 from India who were buried in Muslim cemeteries.
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Kanchanaburi
Tomb Stone sayings:"A star shines over a silent grave
of one we loved but could not save."
More than 5,000 Commonwealth and 1,800 Dutch casualties were buried or commemorated in the cemetery. The cemetery was designed by Colin St Clair Oakes.
Lest we forget
Verses on tombstone: "God shall wipe away all tears
there shall be no more death."
We spent about 20 minutes in the cemetery taking pictures and reading verses and sayings from the tombstone. The following two are very touching: “Your duty nobly done, My son, Sleep on. Mother.” “In loving memory of my dear brother Tom, sadly missed at home.”
Death Railway Museum and Research Centre.
Death Railway Museum and Research Centre
A prisoner of war receiving medical treatment from railway doctors
Nearby, across a side road, is The Death Railway Museum and Research Centre. Admission fee is 100 bats. Entering the small hall of the Museum, I saw a gallery to show the historical background and the reasons behind the construction of the Death Railway. One gallery deals the life of the POWs in the camp, sickness and disease, struggle for survival, and the terrible conditions under which the work was carried out. Yet another gallery looks at the contribution made by the many Asian labourers and by the Thais themselves. This leads to the aftermath of the War, the work of the War Graves Parties and the end of the Railway.
The information part of the Centre comprises a library containing books, documents, maps, photographs, personal records, video interview and other material to assist students of history in their studies into the Thailand-Burma Railway.
The Fall of Singapore
Victorious Japanese troops marching through Fullerton Square Singapore
On 31 January,1941, the British had withdrawn all their troops in Malaya across the Johore Causeway to Singapore. The Japanese then occupied Johore , thousands of Chinese civilians were killed while Japanese soldiers marching down Malaya. Seven days later, Singapore suddently surrendered. According to the record, the British had about 130,000 troops to defend Singapore but the total strength of Japanese army was merely 30,000. Following the fall of Singapore, at least 50,000 male Chinese civilians had been massacred in Singapore. As Singapore was the headquarters of China Relief Fund. All Chinese community leaders and those involved in the China Relief Fund had been arrested by the Japanese military police and were being tortured to death.
Dr.Albert Kwok,a leader of the Kinabalu Guerrilla",
was later captured, tortured and executed.
Petagas Memorial Garden, Kota Kinabalu.
During my one hour visit to the museum, I found some very useful information pertaining to Kinabalu Guerrilla and the sole Sabah Comfort Woman. The Kinabalu Guerrilla had indeed attacked a train in Tenom district in April,1942 killing 16 Japanese soldiers and wounding 10 , including a senior officer named Tanaka who was among those injured. This man was the Head of Japanese Kempeitai in Borneo. He later took great renvange to the anti-Japanese activities in Jesselton, particularly to those members of the China Relief Fund. Giving endless torture and killing most of them.
Double Ten Uprising
The Memorial Wall with names of those killed by
the Japanese during Double Ten Uprising
Heavily bombed Jesselton during World War II
On 9 October,1943 , a group of Chinese youth led by Dr. Albert Kwok, a Chinese physician, revolted against the Japanese invasion in Jesselton, North Borneo(Now Kota Kinabalu, Sabah). Earlier,Dr. Kwok had been in contact with the American guerrilla leader in Philipines, named Lieutenant-Colonel Alenjandro ,Suarez and informed him on the formation of a resistance force known as "Kinabalu Guerrilla". It was reported that about 40 Japanese soldiers were killed in the said uprising
View of Jesselton township around 1940s
The Japanese later launched a big scale retaliation in Jesselton and its surrounding areas such as Tuaran, Mengatal and Inanam . Every town and village (Kampong) was under heavy bombing and machine -gun firings. Dr. Kwok was captured, tortured and executed.
Old Gaya Street,Jesselton.
Jesselton Sports Club
After the said premature and unsuccessful revolt, hundreds of Chinese civilians in Jesselton were arrested and tortured by the Japanese Kempeitai in order to extract information concerning the “Kinabalu Guerrilla” and those members of the “China Relief Fund”. Forced confession were followed by mass executions. About 200 at a time were shot or beheaded. Several hundred innocent civilians died after being tortured in Kempeitai prison at Batu Tiga and at the former Jesselton Sports Club.
The Massacre Of Suluk Village
Japanese troops marched through the street of Labuan,
Japanese landing off the West Coast of North Borneo
Although the Jesselton Revolt on 9 October, 1943 was organised by Kinabalu Guerrilla and its members were mainly Chinese , the Japanese made it an excuse to exterminate inhabitants of the Suluk tribe (One of Borneo ethnic group) in the East Coast of North Borneo, even though they were not directly involved in the revolt. According to the record, 60 were tortured and executed. On Mantanani Island, all the inhabitants of a Suluk village(Kampong),including women and children, were massacred by troops under the command of Lieutenant Shimizu of the Japanese Kempeitai.They were lined up and machine-gunned outside the village mosque. The Japanese soldiers then set fire to burn down the whole village. Similar massacres were also taken in some Suluk fishing villages in the nearby island. After the war, Lieutenant Shimizu was tried at a War Crimes Trial in Singapore and was sentenced to death.
North Borneo Comfort Woman
North Borneo Comfort Women
Japanese Military Police(Kemperti)
There were 2 brothels with "Comfort Women" run by the Japanese army in Jesselton during the Japanese occupation.One for soldiers at the Basel Mission Church in Rudge Road and the other at a large bungalow at Harrington Road .The latter was exclusively for Japanese senior officers and where the youngest and prettiest "Sex Slaves" were to be found. There were a total of 23 young girls forced to be as "Comfort Women" or "Sex Slaves". Most of them captued from Java, Indonesia between the ages of 13 to 18.The only Sabahan Comfort woman , No.23, called Swee Lian of 16 years old, came from Jesselton. She was raped and later sent to the brothel as "Sex Slave". Jesselton Sports Club, a place I used to go during my childhood, was used by the Japanese army to torture the anti-Japanese elements.
Australian troops coming ashore at Jesselton
Atkinson Town Clock Tower,Jesselton.
The history of North Borneo shows that the Chinese are the most patriotic citizens of this country. They are willing to fight and sacrifice their life to defend this country during the enemy invasion.
We spent more than one hour in the museum. After taking a cup of coffee, we then proceed to the famous Bridge on the River Kwai.
The Bridge on the River Kwai
The Bridge on the River Kwai
Most of the visitors walking on the bridge were Thai youths and Westerners
On arrival we saw a very small bridge across a river. This is the famous bridge of the Thai-Burma Railways linked up the two countries.In fact, this was not the original bridge built by POW’s. The iron bridge was rebuilt in 1945 because the former iron and concrete bridge was bombed by Allied forces. The bridge became famous due to an epic World War II adventure film, “ The Bridge on the River Kwai”. The film is a work of fiction, but borrows the construction of the Thai-Burma Railway in 1942–43 for its historical setting. The movie was filmed in Ceylon (Now known as Sri Lanka). The bridge in the film was near Kitulgala, Sri Lanka, not in Thailand.
Floating Restaurants in Kwai River
A River Boat Cruise Restaurant
My wife and I walked along the bridge together with other tourists mostly Thai youths and Westerners. It took only less than 10 minutes to the Burma side. Beyond that it was the notorious Death Railway.
In Memorary of 700 US Pows who were forced to work on the
construction of the Thai-Burma Railway and 356 of these
who perished from disease,malnutritution,overwork
and physical abuse.
The bridge became famous due to an epic World War II
adventure film, “ The Bridge on the River Kwai”
There is nothing for visitors to see except its historical value. Besides, there are floating restaurants in Kwai River.
The real name of the railway is “Thailnd-Burma Railway”. It connects between Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma.Its route was through Three Pagoda Pass on the border of Thailand and Burma,111 km of the railway were in Burma and the remaining 304 km were in Thailand. It was built by a total of 254,711 POWs and Asian Labourers. Among them, a total of 99,044 died on the construction of the railway between, 1942-1943 due to malnutritution,over-work,maltreatment and brutalization by the Japanese, and above all, cholera, malari and other tropical diseases. So,after the war, it is commonly known as “Death Railway.
The majority of POWs were sent from Changi, Singapore in large groups throughout 1942 and 1943. A total of 61,811 POWs were sent for this purpose, of which 12,619 died on the construction of railways. The dead POWs included 6,904 British personnel, 2,802 Australian, 2,782 Dutch, and 131 Americans.
POWs at work
Death Railway was built by a total of 254,711 POWs and Asian Labourers.
Among them, a total of 99,044 died on the construction of
the railway between, 1942-1943.
After the end of World War II, Japanese military officials were tried for war crimes because of their brutalization of POWs during the construction of the railway, with 32 of these sentenced to death.
Earlier,it was estimated by the Japanese engineer that the railway would take at least 5 to 6 years for completion. But, it was later completed far ahead of schedule. On 17 October,1943,two sections of the railway line met at Konkuita. It only took 16 months to complete the 416 km Thai-Burma Railway.