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Burma to Siam (Thailand) or "Death" Railway

  • One POW died for every 32.6 metres of track.

    • there were 424 thousand metres of track

      • 13,000 died and are buried along the way

  •  Burma to Siam Railway,  built with "expendable" slave labour.
    • Japanese brutality at or near it's worst.
Trees have had time to grow in Hellfire Pass since Aussies hacked their way through the solid rock to make this cutting on the Death Railway. 

But time should never be allowed to dull our memory of the suffering and torture inflicted on the men who did this work. 

They had little in the way of modern tools, were undernourished and over worked and were suffering from a dreadful range of tropical diseases and other problems caused by chronic malnourishment.

They died in the thousands. 12 months earlier they were young, fit, healthy men. Now they were like walking skeletons.

The Burma-Siam Railway was built by British, Australian, Dutch and American prisoners-of-war.

It was built as a Japanese project to improve communications in order to maintain the large Japanese army in Burma.

During its construction, about 13,000 prisoners-of-war died, mainly of sickness, malnutrition and exhaustion - and were buried along the railway. 

The railway was set for completion in 14 months, which was to coincide with the end of 1943. The labour utilised consisted of those captured in South-East Asia and the Pacific. From June 1942, large numbers of POW's were transferred from Java, Sumatra and Singapore. Two forces were formed, one based in Siam (Thailand) and the other based in Burma (Myanmar), and were set to meet in the middle.

The first task of the POW's who had landed in Siam, was to construct the camps at Kanchanaburi and Ban Pong, with those landed in Burma, to construct similar at Thanbyuzayat, the future site for another of the three large cemeteries. Accommodation for the Japanese guards had to be constructed first, at all the staging camps along the railway. Cook houses and huts for the workers came next, and finally the accommodation for the sick. 

For the duration of the railway work, food supplies were inadequate and extremely irregular. These were substituted by Red Cross parcels, which were frequently held up by the Japanese. Numbers of sick were always high, being affected by malaria, dysentery and vitamin deficiency conditions.

Work began at the Burmese end on 1st October 1942 and somewhat later at Ban Pong. The two parties met at Konkuita in October 1943, with the line being completed by December - a total length of 424 kilometres. Maintenance continued and repairs followed, necessary due to Allied bombing raids.

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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces