Burma Railway

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Burma Railway
Bridge on the River Kwai - tourist plaza.JPG
The bridge over the Mae Klong River (Kwai Yai River)
Locale Ban Pong, Thailand to Thanbyuzayat, Burma
Dates of operation 1942–1943 (Section to Nam Tok reopened in 1957)
Track gauge 1,000 mm (3 ft 3 38 in) metre gauge[1]
Length 415 kilometres (258 mi)

The Burma Railway, also known as the Death Railway, the Burma–Siam Railway, the Thailand–Burma Railway and similar names, was a 415-kilometre (258 mi) railway between Ban Pong, Thailand, and Thanbyuzayat, Burma, built by the Empire of Japan in 1943 to support its forces in the Burma campaign of World War II. This railway completed the rail link between Bangkok, Thailand and Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon). The line was closed in 1947, but the section between Nong Pla Duk and Nam Tok was reopened ten years later in 1957.[1]

Forced labour was used in its construction. More than 180,000—possibly many more—Southeast Asian civilian labourers (Romusha) and 60,000 Allied prisoners of war (POWs) worked on the railway. Javanese, Malayan Tamils of Indian origin, Burmese, Chinese, Thai and other Southeast Asians, forcibly drafted by the Imperial Japanese Army to work on the railway, died in its construction.[better source needed][2][3] 12,621 Allied POWs died during the construction. The dead POWs included 6,904 British personnel, 2,802 Australians, 2,782 Dutch, and 133 Americans.[4]

After the end of World War II, 111 Japanese military officials were tried for war crimes because of their brutalization of POWs during the construction of the railway, with 32 of these sentenced to death.[5] No compensation or reparations have been provided to Southeast Asian victims.[3]


Map of the Burma Railway

A railway route between Burma and Thailand, crossing Three Pagodas Pass and following the valley of the Kwhae Noi river in Thailand, had been surveyed by the British government of Burma as early as 1885, but the proposed course of the line – through hilly jungle terrain divided by many rivers – was considered too difficult to undertake.[6]

In early 1942, Japanese forces invaded Burma and seized control of the colony from the United Kingdom. To supply their forces in Burma, the Japanese depended upon the sea, bringing supplies and troops to Burma around the Malay peninsula and through the Strait of Malacca and the Andaman Sea. This route was vulnerable to attack by Allied submarines, especially after the Japanese defeat at the Battle of Midway in June 1942. To avoid a hazardous 2,000 miles (3,200 km) sea journey around the Malay peninsula, a railway from Bangkok, Thailand to Rangoon, Burma seemed a feasible alternative.[7] The Japanese began this project in June 1942.[8]

Abandoned section of Burma Railway in Thanbyuzayat, Burma

The project aimed to connect Ban Pong in Thailand with Thanbyuzayat in Burma, linking up with existing railways at both places. Its route was through Three Pagodas Pass on the border of Thailand and Burma. 69 miles (111 km) of the railway were in Burma and the remaining 189 miles (304 km) were in Thailand. The movement of POWs northward from Changi prison in Singapore and other prison camps in Southeast Asia began in May 1942. After preliminary work of airfields and infrastructure, construction of the railway began in Burma on 15 September 1942 and in Thailand in November. The projected completion date was December 1943.[9][note 1] Most of the construction materials, including tracks and sleepers, were brought from dismantled branches of Malaya's Federated Malay States Railway network and the East Indies' various rail networks.

One of many bridges built by Romusha and POWs on the Thai Burma railway.

The railway was completed ahead of schedule. On 17 October 1943, construction gangs originating in Burma and working south met up with construction gangs originating in Thailand and working north. The two sections of the line met at kilometre 263, about 18 km (11 mi) south of the Three Pagodas Pass at Konkuita (Kaeng Khoi Tha, Sangkhla Buri District, Kanchanaburi Province).[10]

The Burma railway was an impressive accomplishment. As an American engineer said after viewing the project, "What makes this an engineering feat is the totality of it, the accumulation of factors. The total length of miles, the total number of bridges — over 600, including six to eight long-span bridges — the total number of people who were involved (one-quarter of a million), the very short time in which they managed to accomplish it, and the extreme conditions they accomplished it under. They had very little transportation to get stuff to and from the workers, they had almost no medication, they couldn’t get food let alone materials, they had no tools to work with except for basic things like spades and hammers, and they worked in extremely difficult conditions — in the jungle with its heat and humidity. All of that makes this railway an extraordinary accomplishment."[11]

The total freight carried during the war was 500,000 tonnes by two Japanese Army divisions.



12,000 Japanese soldiers, including 800 Koreans, were employed on the railway as engineers, guards, and supervisors of the POW and rōmusha labourers. Although working conditions were far better for the Japanese than the POW and rōmusha workers, about 1,000 (8 percent) of them died during the construction. Japanese soldiers are widely remembered as being cruel and indifferent to the fate of Allied prisoners of war and the Asian rōmusha. Many men in the railway workforce bore the brunt of pitiless or uncaring guards. Cruelty could take different forms, from extreme violence and torture to minor acts of physical punishment, humiliation and neglect.[12]

Civilian labourers[edit]

The number of Southeast Asian workers recruited or impressed to work on the Burma railway has been estimated to have been more than 180,000 of whom as many as half may have died. In the initial stages of the construction of the railway, Burmese and Thai were employed in their respective countries, but Thai workers, in particular, were likely to abscond from the project and the number of Burmese workers recruited was insufficient. The Burmese had welcomed the invasion by Japan to end British rule and cooperated with Japan in recruiting workers.[4][13]

In early 1943, the Japanese advertised for workers in Malaya, Singapore, and the Dutch East Indies, promising good wages, short contracts, and housing for families. When that failed to attract sufficient workers, they resorted to more coercive methods, rounding up workers and impressing them, especially in Malaya. Most of the romusha working on the railway were probably coerced, rather than being volunteers. Approximately 90,000 Burmese and 75,000 Malayans worked on the railroad. Other nationalities and ethnic groups working on the railway were Tamils, Chinese, Karen, Javanese, and Singaporean Chinese.[13]

Malayan Tamils during the construction of Death railway between June 1942 to October 1943

But other documents shows that more than 100,000 Malayan Tamils were brought into this project and around 60,000 perished.[14][15]

The working conditions for the romusha were deadly. British doctor Robert Hardie wrote: "The conditions in the coolie camps down river are terrible, Basil says. They are kept isolated from Japanese and British camps. They have no latrines. Special British prisoner parties at Kinsaiyok bury about 20 coolies a day. These coolies have been brought from Malaya under false pretences - 'easy work, good pay, good houses!' Some have even brought wives and children. Now they find themselves dumped in these charnel houses, driven and brutally knocked about by the Jap and Korean guards, unable to buy extra food, bewildered, sick, frightened. Yet many of them have shown extraordinary kindness to sick British prisoners passing down the river, giving them sugar and helping them into the railway trucks at Tarsao."[16]

Prisoners of War[edit]

The first prisoners of war, 3,000 Australians, to go to Burma departed Changi prison at Singapore on 14 May 1942 and journeyed by sea to near Thanbyuzayat, the northern terminus of the railway. They worked on airfields and other infrastructure initially before beginning construction of the railway in October 1942. The first prisoners of war to work in Thailand, 3,000 British soldiers, left Changi by train in June 1942 to Ban Pong, the southern terminus of the railway.[17] More prisoners of war were imported from Singapore and the Dutch East Indies as construction advanced. Construction camps housing at least 1,000 workers each were established every five to 10 miles (8 to 17 km) of the route. Workers were moved up and down the railway line as needed.

The construction camps consisted of open-sided barracks built of bamboo poles with thatched roofs. The barracks were about sixty metres (66 yd) long with sleeping platforms raised above the ground on each side of an earthen floor. Two hundred men were housed in each barracks, giving each man a two-foot wide space in which to live and sleep. Camps were usually named after the kilometer where they were located.[18]

Conditions during construction[edit]

Portrait of POW "Dusty" Rhodes. A three-minute sketch by Ashley George Old painted in Thailand in 1944.

The prisoners of war "found themselves at the bottom of a social system that was harsh, punitive, fanatical, and often deadly."[19] The living and working conditions on the Burma Railway were often described as "horrific", with maltreatment, sickness, and starvation. The estimated total number of civilian labourers and POWs who died during construction varies considerably, but the Australian Government figures suggest that of the 330,000 people that worked on the line (including 250,000 Asian labourers and 61,000 Allied POWs) about 90,000 of the labourers and about 16,000 Allied prisoners died.

Life in the POW camps was recorded at great risk to themselves by artists such as Jack Bridger Chalker, Philip Meninsky, John Mennie, Ashley George Old, and Ronald Searle. Human hair was often used for brushes, plant juices and blood for paint, and toilet paper as the "canvas". Some of their works were used as evidence in the trials of Japanese war criminals. Many are now held by the Australian War Memorial, State Library of Victoria, and the Imperial War Museum in London.

Starving Australian and Dutch POWs on the Burma railway.

One of the earliest and most respected accounts is ex-POW John Coast's Railroad of Death first published in 1946 and republished in a new edition in 2014.[20][page needed] Coast's work is noted for its detail on the brutality of some Japanese and Korean guards as well as the humanity of others. It also describes the living and working conditions experienced by the POWs, together with the culture of the Thai towns and countryside that became many POWs home after leaving Singapore with the working parties sent to the railway. Coast also details the camaraderie, pastimes and humour of the POWs in the face of adversity.[20][page needed]

In his book, Last Man Out, H. Robert Charles, an American Marine survivor of the sinking of the USS Houston, writes in depth about a Dutch doctor, Henri Hekking, a fellow POW who probably saved the lives of many who worked on the "Death Railway". In the foreword to Charles's book, James D. Hornfischer summarizes: "Dr. Henri Hekking was a tower of psychological and emotional strength, almost shamanic in his power to find and improvise medicines from the wild prison of the jungle". Hekking died in 1994. Charles died in December 2009.

Except for the worst months of the construction period, known as the "Speedo" (mid-spring to mid-October 1943), one of the ways the Allied POWs kept their spirits up was to ask one of the musicians in their midst to play his guitar or accordion, or lead them in a group sing-along, or request their camp comedians to tell some jokes or put on a skit.

After the railway was completed, the POWs still had almost two years to survive before their liberation. During this time, most of the POWs were moved to hospital and relocation camps where they could be available for maintenance crews or sent to Japan to alleviate the manpower shortage there. In these camps entertainment flourished as an essential part of their rehabilitation. Theatres of bamboo and attap (palm fronds) were built, set, lighting, costumes and makeup devised, and an array of entertainment produced that included music halls, variety shows, cabarets, plays, and musical comedies – even pantomimes. These activities engaged numerous POWs as actors, singers, musicians, designers, technicians, and female impersonators.

POWs and Asian workers were also used to build the Kra Isthmus Railway from Chumphon to Kra Buri, and the Sumatra or Palembang Railway from Pekanbaru to Muaro.

The construction of the Burma Railway is counted as a war crime committed by Japan in Asia. Hiroshi Abe, the first lieutenant who supervised construction of the railway at Sonkrai where over 3,000 POWs died, was sentenced to death, later commuted to 15 years in prison, as a B/C class war criminal.

After the completion of the railroad, most of the POWs were then transported to Japan. Those left to maintain the line still suffered from appalling living conditions as well as increasing Allied air raids.

The bridge on the River Kwai[edit]

Bridge over the River Kwai by Leo Rawlings (1943); four prisoners of war carry a large log across the river, waist deep in water

The most famous portion of the railway is Bridge 277, "the bridge on the River Kwai", which was built over a stretch of river which was then known as part of the Mae Klong. The greater part of the Thai part of the route followed the valley of the Khwae Noi River (Khwae branch or tributary, Noi small; Khwae is frequently mispronounced by non-Thai speakers as Kwai, the Thai word for water buffalo). This gave rise to the name "River Kwai" in English. In 1960, because of the discrepancy between fact and fiction, the part of the Mae Klong which passes under the famous bridge was renamed as the Khwae Yai (Thai แควใหญ่, English "big tributary").

This bridge was immortalised by Pierre Boulle in his book and the film based on it, The Bridge on the River Kwai. However, there are many who point out that both Boulle's story and the film based on it were utterly unrealistic and do not show how bad the conditions and treatment of prisoners were.[21] On the part of the Japanese, many resented the movie's depiction that their engineers' capabilities were inferior to those of British engineers. In fact, Japanese engineers had been surveying the route of the railway since 1937 and they were highly organized.[22] The Japanese also accused the film of "glorification of the superiority of Western civilization" because the British in the film were able to build a bridge that the Japanese could not.[23]

In an interview made by former POW John Coast, which forms part of the 1969 BBC2 documentary Return to the River Kwai, Boulle outlined the reasoning which led him to conceive the character of Lt-Col Nicholson, who works to build the fictional bridge and ultimately tries to prevent its destruction. A transcription of the interview and the documentary as a whole can be found in the new edition of John Coast's book Railroad of Death.[20][page needed] The first wooden bridge over the Khwae Yai was finished in February 1943, followed by a concrete and steel bridge in June 1943; which runs in a NNE-SSW direction. It was this bridge 277 that was meant to be attacked with the use of the first-ever example of a precision-guided munition in American service, the VB-1 Azon MCLOS-guided 1,000 lb ordnance on 23 January 1945[24] but bad weather scrubbed the mission.

According to Hellfire Tours in Thailand, "The two bridges were successfully bombed on 13 February 1945 by the Royal Air Force. Repairs were carried out by POW labour and by April the wooden trestle bridge was back in operation. On 3 April a second raid by Liberator bombers of the U.S. Army Air Forces damaged the wooden bridge once again. Repair work continued and both bridges were operational again by the end of May. A second raid by the R.A.F. on 24 June put the railway out of commission for the rest of the war. After the Japanese surrender, the British Army removed 3.9 kilometers of track on the Thai-Burma border. A survey of the track had shown that its poor construction would not support commercial traffic. The track was sold to Thai Railways and the 130 km Ban Pong–Namtok section relaid and is in use today."[25]

The new railway did not fully connect with the Burmese system, as no bridge crossed the river between Moulmein on the south bank with Martaban on the north bank. Thus ferries were needed. A bridge was not built until Thanlwin Bridge in 2000–05.

Hellfire Pass[edit]

The cutting at Hellfire Pass was one of the most difficult (and deadly for POWs) sections to build on the railway.

Hellfire Pass in the Tenasserim Hills was a particularly difficult section of the line to build due to it being the largest rock cutting on the railway, coupled with its general remoteness and the lack of proper construction tools during building. The Australian, British, Dutch, other allied prisoners of war, along with Chinese, Malay, and Tamil labourers, were required by the Japanese to complete the cutting. Sixty-nine men were beaten to death by Japanese guards in the twelve weeks it took to build the cutting, and many more died from cholera, dysentery, starvation, and exhaustion.[26][27]


After the war the railway was in very poor condition and needed heavy reconstruction for use by the Royal Thai Railway system. On 24 June 1949, the portion from Kanchanaburi to Nong Pla Duk (Thai หนองปลาดุก) was finished; on the first of April 1952, the next section up to Wang Pho (Wangpo) was done. Finally, on 1 July 1958 the rail line was completed to Nam Tok (Thai น้ำตก, English Sai Yok "waterfalls".) The portion in use today is some 130 km (81 mi) long. The line was abandoned beyond Nam Tok Sai Yok Noi; the steel rails were salvaged for reuse in expanding the Bangsue railway yard, reinforcing the BKK-Banphachi double track, rehabilitating the track from Thung Song to Trang, and constructing both the Nong Pla Duk–Suphanburi and Ban Thung PhoKhirirat Nikhom branch lines. Parts of the abandoned route have been converted into a walking trail.

Since the 1990s various proposals have been made to rebuild the complete railway, but as of 2014 these plans had not been realised. Since a large part of the original railway line is now submerged by the Vajiralongkorn Dam, and the surrounding terrain is mountainous, it would take extensive tunneling to reconnect Thailand with Burma by rail.


Prisoner of war workers and deaths on the Burma Railway, 1942–1945[4][28]
Nationality POWs deaths death rate
British 30,131 6,904 23%
Dutch 17,990 2,782 15%
Australian 13,004 2,802 22%
American 686 133 19%
Total 61,811 12,621 20%

Estimates of the deaths directly related to the construction of the Burma railway differ depending upon the source. For rōmusha, or impressed workers from Southeast Asia, estimates vary widely, although authorities agree that the percentage of deaths among the romusha was much higher than among the foreign prisoners of war. The total number of romusha working on the railroad may have reached 300,000 and the number of deaths among them has been estimated as high as fifty percent.[16]

The lower death rate of the Dutch POWs compared to other POWs is attributed to the fact that many of them had been born in the Dutch East Indies, some with local heritage, and were thus more accustomed to tropical conditions than the British, Australians, and Americans. Officers fared much better than enlisted men; their weight loss during the construction was 20 to 30 pounds less than that of enlisted men. The survival of POWs was also due to luck. Some cohorts of workers, especially those in more isolated areas, suffered a much higher death rate than others.[29]

The quality of medical care the POWs received from their medical personnel for malaria, cholera, dysentery and especially tropical ulcers was important. The difference among POW cohorts depending upon the quality and number of medical doctors was substantial. Many European and American doctors had little experience with tropical diseases. As an example, one cohort of Americans suffered 100 deaths out of 450 personnel. Another American group to which Dr. Hekking, the Dutch doctor with long experience in tropical medicine, was assigned suffered only 9 deaths out of 190 personnel. A Dutch group of 400 workers which included three doctors with extensive tropical medicine experience suffered no deaths at all.[30]

Cemeteries and memorials[edit]

After the war, the remains of most of the war dead were moved from former POW camps, burial grounds and lone graves along the rail line to official war cemeteries.

Three cemeteries maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) contain the vast majority of Allied military personnel who died on the Burma Railway.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, in the city of Kanchanaburi, contains the graves of 6,982 personnel comprising:

  • 3,585 British;
  • 1,896 Dutch;
  • 1,362 Australians;
  • 12 members of the Indian Army (including British officers)
  • 2 New Zealanders;
  • 2 Danish, and;
  • 8 Canadians.[31][32][33]

A memorial at the Kanchanaburi cemetery lists 11 other members of the Indian Army, who are buried in nearby Muslim cemeteries.

Thanbyuzayat War Cemetery, at Thanbyuzayat, 65 kilometres south of Moulmein has the graves of 3,617 POWs who died on the Burmese portion of the line.

  • 1,651 British;
  • 1,335 Australians;
  • 621 Dutch;
  • 15 Indian Army;
  • 3 New Zealanders, and;
  • 1 Canadian.[31][32]

Chungkai War Cemetery, near Kanchanaburi, has a further 1,693 war graves.

  • 1,373 British;
  • 314 Dutch;
  • 6 Indian Army.[31][32]

The remains of United States personnel were repatriated. Of the 668 US personnel forced to work on the railway, 133 died. This included personnel from USS Houston and the 131st Field Artillery Regiment of the Texas Army National Guard. The Americans were called the Lost Battalion as their fate was unknown to the United States for more than two years after their capture.[28]

Several museums are dedicated to those who perished building the railway. The largest of these is at Hellfire Pass (north of the current terminus at Nam Tok), a cutting where the greatest number of lives were lost. An Australian memorial is at Hellfire Pass. Two other museums are in Kanchanaburi: the Thailand–Burma Railway Centre, opened in March 2003, and the JEATH War Museum. There is a memorial plaque at the Kwai bridge itself and an historic wartime steam locomotive is on display.

A preserved section of line has been rebuilt at the National Memorial Arboretum in England.

Prominent people coerced into building the line[edit]

  • Sir Harold Atcherley, businessman, public figure and arts administrator in the United Kingdom
  • Idris James Barwick, author of In the Shadow of Death, died in 1974
  • Leo Britt, British theatrical producer in Chungkai, Kachu Mountain, and Nakhon Nai
  • Sir John Carrick, Australian senator
  • Norman Carter, Australian theatrical producer in Bicycle Camp, Java, in numerous camps on the Burma side of the construction, and later in Tamarkan, Thailand
  • Jack Bridger Chalker, artist best known for his work recording the lives of prisoners of war in World War II
  • Anthony Chenevix-Trench (10 May 1919 – 21 June 1979), headmaster of Eton College, 1964–1970 and Fettes College 1972–1979
  • Sir Albert Coates, chief Australian medical officer on the railway
  • John Coast, (30 October 1916 – 1989), British writer and music promoter. He wrote one of the earliest and most respected POW memoirs Railroad of Death (1946). Other works of Coast include Dancers of Bali (1953), and Dancing Out of Bali (1954) which reflect Coast's role in bringing Balinese music and dancing to the West (he discovered his interest in both whilst a POW mixing with Dutch and Eurasian colonials from Indonesia). After the war he played an important role in the fight for Indonesian independence (a cause he began to support whilst a POW), with his role detailed in Recruit to Revolution (1952). As an agent and manager in the world of opera he discovered Pavarotti and was manager to stars such as Mario Lanza, José Carreras, and Montserrat Caballe.[34]
  • Col. John Harold Henry Coombes, founder and the first Principal of Cadet College Petaro in Pakistan
  • Sir Ernest Edward "Weary" Dunlop, Australian surgeon renowned for his leadership of POWs on the railway
  • Ringer Edwards, Australian soldier who survived crucifixion at the hands of Japanese soldiers while working on the line
  • Arch Flanagan, (1915–2013), Australian soldier and father of novelist Richard Flanagan and Martin Flanagan
  • Keith Flanagan (d. 2008) Australian soldier, journalist and campaigner for recognition of Weary Dunlop
  • William Frankland, British immunologist whose achievements include the popularisation of the pollen count as a piece of weather-related information to the British public and the prediction of increased levels of allergy to penicillin
  • Ernest Gordon, the former Presbyterian dean of the chapel at Princeton University
  • R. M. Hare, philosopher
  • Wim Kan, Dutch comedian and cabaret producer on the Burma side of the railway during the construction period and later in Nakhon Pathom Hospital Camp in Thailand
  • Hamilton Lamb, Australian politician and member of the Victorian Legislative Assembly, died of illness and malnutrition at railway camp 131 Kilo in Thailand
  • Eric Lomax, author of The Railway Man, an autobiography based on these events, which has been made into a film of the same name starring Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman
  • Jacob Markowitz, Romanian-born Canadian physician (1901–1969), AKA the "Jungle Surgeon", who enlisted with the RAMC after being refused into the Canadian military for his Jewish heritage[citation needed]
  • Tan Sri Professor Sir Alexander Oppenheim, British mathematician, started a POW university for his fellow workers
  • Frank Pantridge, British physician
  • Donald Purdie (d. 27 May 1943), British chemistry professor and department head at Raffles College, Singapore; Purdie died during construction of the railway
  • Rowley Richards, Australian doctor who kept detailed notes of his time as a medical officer on the railway. He later wrote a book detailing his experiences
  • Rohan Rivett, Australian war correspondent in Singapore; captured after travelling 700 km, predominantly by rowboat, from Singapore; Rivett spent 3 years working on the Burma railway. Wrote a book chronicling the events
  • Ronald Searle, British cartoonist, creator of the St Trinian's School characters
  • E. W. Swanton (1907–2000), Cricket writer and broadcaster. Mentioned in his autobiography — Sort of a cricket person
  • Arie Smit (15 April 1916 – 23 March 2016), Dutch artist and colonial army lithographer; captured in East Java by Japanese in March 1942, sent to Changi Prison and worked on Thai section of railway; became Indonesian citizen in 1950, founded fine arts department at Udayana University in Bali; initiated the Young Artists style of Balinese naive painting in 1960, today one of Indonesia's leading contemporary artists; lives in Bali; received Dharma Kusuma art award from Bali in 1992
  • Philip Toosey, senior Allied officer at the Bridge on the River Kwai
  • Reg Twigg, British author Survivor on the River Kwai: Life on the Burma Railway, Private in the Leicestershire Regiment, 1913–2013
  • Tom Uren, Deputy Leader of the Australian Labor Party; Minister for Urban and Regional Development in Whitlam government
  • Alistair Urquhart, former Gordon Highlander, born in Aberdeen, Scotland. (8 September 1919 – 7 October 2016), author of the book The Forgotten Highlander in which he recalls how he survived his three years on the railway
  • Ian Watt (9 March 1917 – 13 December 1999), literary critic, literary historian and professor of English at Stanford University

Significant bridges along the line[edit]

Along the Death Railway today, River Khwae on the left
  • 346.40-meter iron bridge across Kwae Yai river at Tha Makham km. 56 + 255.1
  • 90-meter Wooden Trestle across Songkalia river km. 294 + 418
  • 56-meter Wooden Trestle across Mekaza river km. 319 + 798
  • 75-meter Wooden Trestle across Zamithi river km. 329 + 678
  • 50-meter Concrete Bridge across Apalong river km. 333 + 258.20
  • 60-meter Wooden Trestle across Anakui river km. 369 + 839.5

Cultural references[edit]

The construction of the railway has been the subject of a novel and an award-winning film, The Bridge on the River Kwai (itself an adaptation of the French language novel The Bridge over the River Kwai); a novel, The Narrow Road to the Deep North by Richard Flanagan, as well as a large number of personal accounts of POW experiences. More recently, the motion picture The Railway Man (based on the book of the same name) also gives insight into the barbaric conditions and suffering that were inflicted upon the workers who built the railway. Richard Flanagan's 2013 book The Narrow Road to the Deep North centres on a group of Australian POWs and their experiences building the railway as slave labour. It was awarded the 2014 Man Booker Prize.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The goal for completion of the railway was December 1943.


  1. ^ a b Beattie, Rod (2007). The Thai-Burma Railway. Thailand-Burma Railway Centre. p. 10. 
  2. ^ Kaur, Minderjeet (9 July 2016). "Stories of Death Railway heroes to be kept alive". FMT News. 
  3. ^ a b Boggett, David (22 November 2015). "Cast into oblivion: Malayan Tamils of the Death Railway". FMT News: Letters. 
  4. ^ a b c MacPherson, Neil. "Death Railway Movements". Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  5. ^ "After the War: War crimes trials". The Thai-Burma Railway & Hellfire Pass. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  6. ^ MacArthur 2005, p. 43.
  7. ^ Daws 1994, pp. 183–184.
  8. ^ roll-of-honour.org.uk
  9. ^ MacArthur 2005, pp. 43–48.
  10. ^ Waterford 1994, p. 243.
  11. ^ "The Bridges of the Thai Burma Railway". Secrets of the Dead: Unearthing History. Public Broadcasting System. Retrieved 8 January 2015. 
  12. ^ "The Enemy: Treatment of prisoners". The Thai-Burma Railway & Hellfire Pass. Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  13. ^ a b "The Workers: Rōmusha recruitment". The Thai-Burma Railway & Hellfire Pass. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  14. ^ Gamba, C. The National Union of Plantation workers. p. 13. [full citation needed]
  15. ^ விசயகுமார், க. (ed.). சாயம் மரண ரயில் (in Tamil). p. 4. [full citation needed]
  16. ^ a b Boggett, David. "Notes on the Thai-Burma Railway. Part II: Asian Romusha: The Silenced Voices of History" (PDF). Retrieved 9 January 2015. 
  17. ^ FEPOW community. "Departure". Death Railway. Retrieved 10 January 2014. 
  18. ^ Waterford 1994, pp. 238–239.
  19. ^ La Forte 1994, p. xxxiv.
  20. ^ a b c Coast, Noszlopy & Nash 2014.
  21. ^ Pye, David. "The Price of Freedom". Archived from the original on 19 February 2004. 
  22. ^ Summers, Julie (2012). "The Colonel of Tamarkan: Philip Toosey and the Bridge on the River Kwai". National Army Museum. p. 6. Archived from the original on 8 January 2015. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  23. ^ Sukehiro, Hirakawa. "Bridge on the River Kwai". FEPOW community. Retrieved 6 January 2015. 
  24. ^ Marion. "Old China Hands, Tales & Stories – The Azon Bomb". oldchinahands. Archived from the original on 6 March 2012. Retrieved 20 March 2012. 
  25. ^ "Historical Fact on the Burma Death Railroad Thailand Hellfire pass Prisoners conditions". Archived from the original on 18 January 2012. 
  26. ^ Wigmore 1957, p. 568.
  27. ^ "Railway of Death: Images of the construction of the Burma–Thailand Railway 1942–1943". ANZAC Day Commemoration Committee of Queensland. Archived from the original on 22 September 2010. Retrieved 31 August 2010. 
  28. ^ a b Marcello, Ronald E. (January 1992). "Lone Star POWs: Texas National Guardsmen and the Building of the Burma-Thailand Railroad, 1942–1944". The Southwestern Historical Quarterly. 95 (3): 297–319. 
  29. ^ Daws 1994, pp. 223-243.
  30. ^ Daws 1994, pp. 242–243.
  31. ^ a b c "Search For War Dead". Commonwealth War Graves Commission. 2012. Archived from the original on 7 August 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2012. 
  32. ^ a b c "The Workers – Dutch". The Thai-Burma Railway & Hellfire Pass. Department of Veterans Affairs - Australia. 2014. Retrieved 21 January 2014. 
  33. ^ "Results". Canadian Fallen. Canadian Fallen - Canadian. 2017. Retrieved 17 June 2017. 
  34. ^ "Biography". 

Book references[edit]

  • Blair, Clay, Jr.; Joan Blair (1979). Return from the River Kwai. New York: Simon & Schuster. 
  • Boulle, Pierre (1954). Bridge on the River Kwai. London: Secker & Warburg. 
  • Bradden, Russell (2001) [1951]. The Naked Island. Edinburgh: Birlinn. 
  • Bradley, James (1982). Towards The Setting Sun: An escape from the Thailand-Burma Railway, 1943. London and Chichester: Phillimore & Co. Ltd. ISBN 0 85033 467 5. 
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External links[edit]

Coordinates: 14°02′27″N 99°30′11″E / 14.04083°N 99.50306°E / 14.04083; 99.50306