Wings and Wheels Society.

River Kwai Bridge 18-4-2017.

The Khwae Yai River (as spelt in Asia), is a river in western Thailand. One of our members visited the area; the photos he took are a chilling reminder of the brutality of war! The author did a good job of capturing the area on his phone camera. The famous bridge of the Burma Railway crosses the river at Tha Makham Sub district of the Mueang District. However, this is not the same bridge as depicted in The Bridge over the River Kwai by Pierre Boulle and in its film adaptation. A bridge was built of wood approximately 100 metres (330 ft) upriver from the current bridge, during the construction of the iron and concrete bridge and also rebuilt in 1945 when the iron bridge was bombed. No remnants of the wooden bridge remain. That wooden bridge was also not the bridge depicted in the film as the river was not called the Kwai Yai at that time. A wooden trestle bridge was built over the Kwai Noi many miles upstream in the jungle and it would more closely resemble the bridge in the film. However, the film is really a fictional depiction of the events with many inaccuracies and neither bridge can really be said to be that depicted in the film. Up until the 1960s, the river was considered part of the Mae Klong itself, but this part of the Mae Klong was then renamed Khwae Yai to bring geographical fact more in line with the fictional association with the name River Kwai. The main cemetery of prisoners who died during the railway's construction is nearby and is called the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. The grim details are sensitively presented in viewing The Hellfire pass and cutting and the Death Railway Museum and Research Centre in Kanchanaburi. Here, through a graphic assortment of photos from the time, artefacts and moving testimonies of survivors captured on film, is the story of how the railway was built as Japan sought to provide a new supply route to its troops in Burma and consolidate and expand its grip on the whole of Asia. Some 60,000 prisoners of war (mainly British, Australian and Dutch) were involved in the construction of the railway as well as almost three times as many indentured Asian labourers (who, I was told, were also treated just as appallingly). Toiling in searing heat and subjected to systemic torture, the conditions in which they worked were unimaginably harsh, and by the end, an estimated 100,000 had died, including more than 6,000 British servicemen. A large number of the latter have been laid to rest in the immaculately preserved Kanchanaburi war cemetery in which simple headstones have been inscribed with messages such as "To live in the hearts we leave behind is not to die." (W.E. Adams, Royal Artillery, 24. 5 November, 1942).

Copyright of all pictures in this gallery belong to D Heap.