The Bridge Over the River Kwai and Railway of Death.

It was extremely salutary to travel on the train from in Thailand to the Bridge over the River Kwai. That was part of the railway laid by the POWs under the supervision of the Japanese in World War 2 that was called ‘The Railway of Death’

A railway connecting Thailand to China was considered by the British but considered too difficult and costly. It went through tropical swamps and mountainous terrain. The route was too hard.

But in the war the Japanese decided to undertake it using captured Allied troops and Asian slave labour. The plan was a 258 mile long railway connecting Thailand and Burma. In the course of building this the POWs were starved, beaten and worked to death. They succumbed to disease, dysentery and starvation, existing on boiled rice while being forced to carry out hard manual labour. Sixty nine were beaten to death by the Japanese guards and over sixteen thousand died. The Asian workforce were treated even worse and died in their tens of thousands – over 90% of them succumbed.

The workforce worked their way through jungles, swamps and rocky mountain equipped with basic tools and pick axes.

We visited a number of sites – the museum with its graphic paintings (produced by the POWS) and photographs was the most harrowing.

Dense tropical jungle and mountains.


This was the River Kwai with the railway running alongside.

This is on the train with tourists and locals selling fruit and local delicacies.

Below are the photos and paintings from the museum.

This was the site of the Bridge over the River Kwai that was made into the film.

8 thoughts on “The Bridge Over the River Kwai and Railway of Death.

  1. “The Bridge on the River Kwai” is one of his nibs’ top five movies. He never gets tired of watching it. I’ll have to make a point to show him your pictures. (Sorry I’m scarce at the moment. I think I bit off more than I could chew! I need a food processor for all these posts I’m doing! But I’ll be back! 😀 )

  2. The nickname given to the Burma Railway was actually Death Railway.
    Looks like possible confusion with former POW John Coast’s book “Railroad of Death”, which is a very good and gives a graphic account of survival.
    The death tally of Allied troops was slightly under thirteen thousand (not sixteen as expressed above) and in the region of at least ninety thousand civilians died, as estimated as detailed figures are unattainable.
    This figure given for sixty-nine beaten to death was only for a short stretch of the line, as known, and by no means the final total of Japanese atrocities which ran into the thousands. Over thirty Japanese were executed for war crimes and hundreds imprisoned.
    There is one very surprising and almost unimaginable detail to emerge from all this misery in that the majority of troops did not lose as much weight as their compatriots elsewhere in fighting forces.

    It’s interesting to learn of the reason which lead to Japanese atrocities. In the previous WW1, Japanese forces were known for their expressed respect for captured troops and brutality and executions were unknown. However, due to the massive upscaling of military numbers of troops in preparation for WW2, the training regime was changed to one of brutal non-compassion and this mentality went with troops into the theatre of war.

  3. The father of a friend of mine was one of those prisoners of war. She sometimes speaks of it. His health continued to deteriorate afterwards and I gather he never really fully recovered. Her visit to the area many years later was an emotionally overwrought experience. Such a beautiful area with so much sad history

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