Thai-Burma rail­way cost so many lives

Central and North Burnett Times - - LIFE -

SEV­ENTY-FIVE years ago, the Thai-Burma rail­way was com­pleted on Oc­to­ber 16, 1943, cost­ing the lives of more than 2800 Aus­tralian Pris­on­ers of War, in­clud­ing some 700 at Hellfire Pass.

Dur­ing World War II, the Ja­panese sought to main­tain their armies in Burma and be­gan con­struc­tion of a 420km rail­way be­tween western Thai­land and Burma through harsh jun­gles and moun­tains.

Con­struc­tion of the Thai-Burma rail­way be­gan in Oc­to­ber 1942 and by the time the line was fin­ished, around 270,000 Asian labour­ers and some 60,000 Al­lied POWs, in­clud­ing Aus­tralian, British, Dutch, and Amer­i­can troops, had worked on its con­struc­tion.

The most no­to­ri­ous site along the rail­way is Hellfire Pass, where pris­on­ers were re­quired to drill, blast and dig their way through solid lime­stone and quartz rock.

Shifts lasted up to 18 hours a day dur­ing the most in­tense pe­riod, a reg­i­men that con­tin­ued for some six weeks.

The pass was named both for the bru­tal work­ing con­di­tions and the eerie light thrown by bam­boo fires as skele­tal fig­ures laboured by night, rem­i­nis­cent to some of Dante’s In­ferno.

Pri­vate James “Snow” Peat found strength in these dif­fi­cult con­di­tions by think­ing of home, and those wait­ing for him: “I had a wife and lit­tle girl. And the will to live. I said ‘I’m not dy­ing in this bloody place, and that’s all there is to it.’”

This at­ti­tude, and the re­silience and de­ter­mi­na­tion shown by Aus­tralian POWs dur­ing World War II, epit­o­mised the An­zac spirit forged more than two decades ear­lier dur­ing World War I.

To­day, we re­mem­ber the some 75,000 Asian labour­ers who died along­side the Al­lied pris­on­ers while work­ing on the rail­way and we hon­our the ser­vice and sac­ri­fice of the some 12,500 Al­lied POWs who died, in­clud­ing more than 2800 Aus­tralians.

Lest we for­get. — Dar­ren Ch­ester MP, Min­is­ter for Veter­ans’ Af­fairs

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.