Kanchanaburi | Thailand

Hell Fire Pass Memorial

Family Thailand Tour 2020

Kanchanaburi | Thailand

06 Feb 2020 | Thu

Day 12 of 18

  • Hell Fire Pass Memorial
  • Lunch | Khrua Ngo Pa Kanchanaburi
  • Wat Tha Khanun Thong Pha Phum
  • Kroeng Krawia Waterfall Sangkhla Buri
  • Three Pagodas Pass Sangkhla Buri
  • Kingfisher House Sangkhla Buri
  • Uttama Memorial Mon Bridge Sangkhla Buri
  • Sangkhla Buri Night Market

Hell Fire Pass Memorial

Today we are traveling to Sangkhla Buri, but we’re stopping off to visit interesting places along the way. Our first stop of the day was Hellfire Pass Memorial.

During World War II, Thailand was occupied by Japanese forces, who used the country as a base for their operations in Burma. To build the Burma-Siam Railway, also known as the Death Railway, they forced prisoners of war and Asian laborers to work in brutal conditions.

Rock Cut at Hell Fire Pass

One of the most notorious sections of the railway was Hellfire Pass, where prisoners were made to work day and night with little rest or food. The conditions were so horrific that many didn’t survive.

Today, Hellfire Pass is a somber reminder of the past. Visitors can walk through the pass and see the remnants of the railway.

Hellfire Pass Memorial

The Hellfire Pass (Konyu) cutting is an example of the type of excavations of the 415 km Burma-Thailand railway constructed in 1942-1943 by American, Australian, British and Dutch Prisoners of War and conscripted nationals from Burma, Malaya and Thailand.

From Nong Pladuk the railway traversed the flat plain to Kanchanaburi where it crossed the Mae Khlaung river, then followed the course of the Kwae Noi river through Namtok (present terminus of the operative section), and Saiyok National Park, passing through three Pagoda Pass and over the foothills, and coastal plains of Burma to its junction with the existing Moulamein to Ye railway line at Thanbyuzayat.

The railway was functional from October 1943 to June 1945 with occasional interruptions caused by bomb damage.

Hellfire Pass and the adjacent cuttings were excavated by POW labour working in round-the-clock shifts over a desperate period of 12 weeks in 1943. The name Hellfire Pass relates to the awesome scene presented at night by the light from torches and lamps in the cutting. This work was done without the aid of reliable mechanical equipment. The most primitive of hand tools were used to drill holes for the explosives used in blasting the rock and for removing the waste rock.

This section of the railway required the construction of many large embankments, trestle bridges, and deep cuttings as the route left the relatively flat high ground and traversed northward along the steep valley wall.

One of the most famous trestle bridges was built in this area-Hintok or Pack of Cards Bridge so named because it collapsed 3 times during construction. It was constructed in 3 weeks out of unseasoned timber fastened with wooden pegs, spikes, bamboo ties, and rattan rope. The Konyu cutting and other rock excavations and embankment in this area will serve as a memorial to the thousands of lives so tragically sacrificed in the construction of the Burma-Thailand railway and to the Thai people who risked their lives to supply medicines and food to the prisoners during those dangerous times.

Presented by the Australian-Thai Chamber of Commerce for the Australian Government

Hell Fire Pass Memorial

Hellfire Pass (Thai: ช่องเขาขาด, known by the Japanese as Konyu Cutting) is the name of a railway cutting on the former Burma Railway (“Death Railway”) in Thailand which was built with forced labour during the Second World War, in part by Allied prisoners of war. The pass is noted for the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life suffered by its labourers during construction. It was called Hellfire Pass because the sight of emaciated prisoners labouring by burning torchlight resembled a scene from Hell.

Hellfire Pass in the Tenasserim Hills was a particularly difficult section of the line to build. It was the largest rock cutting on the railway, coupled with its general remoteness and the lack of proper construction tools during building. A tunnel would have been possible to build instead of a cutting, but this could only be constructed at the two ends at any one time, whereas the cutting could be constructed at all points simultaneously despite the excess effort required by the POWs. The Australian, British, Dutch and other allied prisoners of war were required by the Japanese to work 18 hours a day to complete the cutting. Sixty-nine men were beaten to death by Japanese guards in the six weeks it took to build the cutting, and many more died from cholera, dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion. However, the majority of deaths occurred amongst labourers whom the Japanese enticed to come to help build the line with false promises of good jobs. These labourers, mostly Malayans (Chinese, Malays and Tamils from Malaya), suffered mostly the same as the POWs at the hands of the Japanese.

The railway was never built to a level of lasting permanence and was frequently bombed by the Royal Air Force during the Burma Campaign. After the war, all but the present section was closed and the line is now only in service between Bangkok and Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi.

Wikipedia Hellfire Pass

Anzac Day at Hellfire Pass – in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, a dawn service is held at Hellfire Pass, a rock cutting dug by allied Prisoners of War and Asian labourers for the Thai-Burma Railway. This cutting is where the greatest number of lives were lost during railway construction. The dawn service is followed by a “gunfire breakfast”. At 10 am or 11 am a second ceremony is held at the main POW cemetery in the city of Kanchanaburi. In addition to this, in 2018 the Australian Consulate-General held a dawn service in Phuket at 5.45 am at Phuket Yacht Club, Soi Phon Chalong. The closest Saturday to Anzac Day also sees an Australian Rules football match between the Thailand Tigers AFL club and a team invited from neighbouring Asian countries. In 2018 The Thailand Tigers and the Vietnam Swans played their first ever Anzac Day home and away series over two weekends.

Wikipedia Anzac Day at Hellfire Pass

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