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Photographer's Note

Kanchanaburi - The Dead Railway


Apologies for this very long note (and then still belonging to a quite mediocre main photo).
For those who dont like to read long notes, I suggest saving time by skipping the note next time with my new picture :)

Quite a few TE members will remember the British-American movie The Bridge on the River Kwai with the actors William Holden and Alec Guinness among others.
The 1957 film, based on a book by the Frenchman Pierre Boulle, writer of novels, was shot in Sri Lanka and tells a story of British prisoners of war who worked in 1943 as forced labour for the Japanese army on the railway through the jungle between Bangkok and Rangoon.

I saw the movie again on TV after my return from Thailand and although its a beautiful story and a good movie, in no way it shows the terrible suffering of the forced labourers as the museums in Kanchanbury town and near Hellfire Pass demonstrate with texts, photos and figures.
Actually, the film is a nice adventure story but the reality of the life of the workers (prisoners of war and even much more cheap local workforce) was a thousand times much worse, as witnessed in both museums.

In both the book and in the movie a mistake was made concerning the river where the bridge was built.
The bridge wasnt built over the Khwae (the Thai name of the river) but over the Mae Klong a few kilometers before its confluence with the Khwae.
After the film became popular in 1957 tourists went to Kanchanaburi to search for the 'bridge on the Kwai' and didnt find it there. So the Thai authorities decided in the 1960s to rename the upper reaches of the Mae Klong as Khwae Yai and the Khwae in Kwae Noi. Business is important

The bridge wasnt only searched in the wrong place. Today the bridge that is the best known view of the entire Burma Railway looks nothing like the wooden one from the movie.
Actually - in my personal opinion - its a very ugly metal bridge.
In February 1943 a wooden bridge was first built to ensure the crossing of the river. This to function during the construction of a neighbouring metal bridge. The wooden bridge doesnt exist anymore and remains are kept in the museum in Kanchanaburi.
In June 1943 a concrete and steel bridge replaced the old wooden one but also this bridge has been destroyed. In April 1945 the U.S. Navy bombed it and after the war Japan helped to repair it.

Today large groups of tourists in Kanchanaburi visit a bridge that is completely unlike what they saw in the movie, that is also quite ugly and only partially original.
The fun is not less. The bridge is a top attraction in the province of Kanchanaburi.
Dont get me wrong. Kanchanaburi is a very interesting province in Thailand. Only know what exactly you're seeing.
If you select Kanchanaburi on TE you will find a lot of pictures of this most recent bridge. One of the best photos here on TE is an older one taken by Chris Jules. See: https://www.trekearth.com/viewphotos.php?l=7&p=155725
I took several photos of the bridge but I don't really like any of them :(

So my main picture here shows another part of the Dead Railway.
In World War II this name was given by Allied prisoners of war who were forced to build the Burma Railway in inhumane conditions. Many died from the long hours of hard labour with bad tools, malnutrition, all kinds of hardships and various tropical diseases.

Building the railroad varied from cutting into shallow earth to deep rock.
The Hellfire Pass (Konyu Cutting) was the largest and deepest rock on the entire length of the Burma Line in which the railway had to be dug. What became a rail bed was once a mass of solid rock.
It meant drilling in the rock by hand and a hammer. Little machinery was available.
As work fell behind schedule, the work rate was intensified. Work shifts lasted up to sixteen and eighteen hours.
At night the cutting was lit by fires, lamps or torches. The eerie light and shadows of guards and gaunt prisoners playing on the rock walls suggested the name Hellfire Pass.
In the WS a photo of the carved rock of Hellfire Pass.
Not so long ago another picture was shown by Loong (foxy). See: https://www.trekearth.com/gallery/Asia/Thailand/photo1587860.htm and the WS there.

According to the figures found in the museum in Kanchanaburi town, nearly 100.000 (one hundred thousand) people died in the construction of this railway.
Of these, 12.619 were prisoners of war (British, Australian, Dutch and American), but even greater numbers were forced cheap labour from neighbouring countries.
An estimated 42.000 Malaysians lost their lives here and about 40.000 Burmese, 2.900 Javanese and 500 Singaporeans.
Around one thousand Japanese also lost their lives there.

Im not completely happy with some of my pictures here. The sky isnt as it should be.
If you've read this note carefully and completely, wow, you're probably retired.
As a reward you will find four more photos in the WS.

Information obtained in Kanchanaburi town and Hellfire Pass museums.

Photo Information
  • Copyright: Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5549 W: 17 N: 13442] (53800)
  • Genre: 地方
  • Medium: 彩色
  • Date Taken: 2019-12-03
  • Exposure:30 seconds
  • Photo Version:Original Version, Workshop
  • Date Submitted: 2020-10-05 23:52
Viewed: 0
Points: 66
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Additional Photos by Paul VDV (PaulVDV) Gold Star Critiquer/Silver Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 5549 W: 17 N: 13442] (53800)
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