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