Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Hellfire pass

Should you ever build yourself a time machine, make sure the co-ordinates for your visit back in time are not Kanchanabari, Thailand 1943. We met up with Kates sister, Lisa and her husband Stephen and nephews smart Alec and Max and went off to visit Hellfire pass. This was where Kates Uncle John spent three and a half years in a prisoner of war camp. He's been to Thailand ten times for memorial services and likes to joke that the japanese paid for his first visit. Unfortunately this place was no joke and was where more than 100,000 people lost their lives building a railway through thick jungle to supply the japanese army fighting in Burma. A very sobering experience indeed. The region achieved worldwide fame thru the film Bridge on the River kwai but I think nothing can do justice to what these old diggers went thru. Below is the bridge which the allies managed to bomb a couple of times. Kate's uncle returned to Australia about 6 stone and blind in one eye and he was one of the lucky buggers. 18 hour work days, chiselling nails into solid rock, barefoot in torrential monsoon rain and only 2 bowls of rice a day. The only people exempt from work were the really really sick. Every morning doctors did a stool test and if you had 80% blood in your faeces then you didnt have to work that day. Any less and it was too bad. Of course if you didnt work you didn't get paid which meant you didnt eat. All this togethor with fierce beatings by the Japanese and Korean guards. Despite this many pow's kept their spirits up singing songs, and teasing the Japanese guards in English with various nicknames. It's remarkable today that some of the Pows still return for memorial services and more bowls of rice.

1 comment:

Rod Adler said...

SBS presented a documentary on the railway some lightyears ago. The shocking thing about the whole story is that the work of all these blokes was in vain, as today there are no trains on the rails. Burma and Thailand could truly use some interstate trade.
What do you think?

All the best,