The Second World War was a period of great turmoil in South East Asia. The imperial Japanese army over ran the entire SE Asia in a swift military operation that has few parallels. The Japanese occupation is much commented by writers and historians and was in some ways a dark age. The way the Japanese carried out the rape of Nanking in China and the massacre in the Andaman islands have few parallels in world history, perhaps only matched by killings carried out by the Gestapo and later Mao tse Tung of China.
The River Kawai is a strategic river inThailand. It is known as the Khowae Noi River. The Japanese were fighting the British in Burma and needed a rail line for supplies to reach their forward positions. They thus set about constructing the bridge over the river and laid a rail line which has become famous as the ‘death railway’. This was so as thousands of POW’s mostly British and Australian were put to work on this bridge and subsequently hundreds died due to the hard working conditions at the site. The bridge was built in 1943/44 and was the target of allied bombing raids. Towards the end of the war repeated attacks by the Allied air forces rendered the bridge unusable and many of its spans sank in the river.At the end of the war the bridge was again rebuilt and is still in use. There is a daily train on this route from Kanchanaburi to Nam Tok Railway Station.
The death railway was a fact and so was the bridge. It is also a fact that POW’s under harsh conditions worked on this bridge to supplement the Japanese war effort. The bridge over the river has large black Iron spans which the Japanese brought from Java. Work on the construction of the bridge was a 24 hour cycle job and the Japanese pushed the POWs’ to the extreme. The making of the Bridge is immortalized by the film by David Lean starring Alec Guinness named ‘Bridge on the River Kwai' in 1957.
The Bridge is about 210 km from Bangkok and is a tourist attractions. 3 trains ply every day from Bangkok to the bridge.