WAR GRAVES - BURMA SIAM RAILWAY
Those who have visited the hugely impressive Kranji War Memorial, Singapore will know it contains the names of 24,000 men with no known grave. This is not to say many men making up this number are not properly buried, but they were buried without being identified and such graves bear the inscription "Known only to God" . Thousands of the names on the Kranji Memorial are those who died at sea in the sinking "Hellships" and their bodies never recovered
The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the Thai/Burma railway have been transferred from the camp burial grounds and solitary sites along the railway to the three large war cemeteries that are known today. Kanchanaburi, the largest and Chungkai, the smallest contain the remains of those recovered from the southern section of Thailand from Ban Pong to Nieke, approximately half of the entire length of the railway. The third cemetery, Thanbyuzayat, situated in southern Burma, contains the remains of those who died in camps in the northern section and in camps in southern Burma
As early as September 1945, before many the P.o.w's were repatriated,
work began to locate the camp cemeteries containing thousands of bodies
along the length of the railway.
It was known that officers in many camps had kept death records and details of where men were buried, rough sketches of locations and amateur maps all assisted the Grave Commission in their daunting assignment.
In the most part they were successful and later the recovered bodies
were moved to the three main cemeteries mentioned above. But even as the
repatriated men were arriving home, their numbers being counted, realisation
came that thousands were still missing.
Extracts from a report on a search carried out by an officer of the Army Graves Service, 6th to 22nd December 1948.
WAR Graves - Burma - Siam Railway
The following day an attempt was made to reach the location of the old
POW Camp at Changaraya. The whole task had to be undertaken in one day
as, owing to the large number of tigers in the vicinity, it was considered
unsafe for a small expedition to stay away from the police post at night.
The jungle in this area was of an incredible density and the only way
to make any progress was for everyone to ride on the elephants and let
them break a path through the undergrowth. At first the chances of finding
the cremation site at Changaraya seemed rather remote but then, quite
by chance, a wooden cross about ten feet high was noticed in the undergrowth.
The elephants cleared the ground in the vicinity of the cross and, on
closer investigation, evidence of cremated human remains was found nearby.
Some small bamboo tubes, which ashes of POWs in some cases were placed
in, were also found. These were collected and brought back to Kanburi.
Under the circumstances it was impossible to determine definitely if this
was the site of the Changaraya cremation ground. Monsoons, fire and the
prolific jungle growth have completely obliterated any traces of huts
The party then returned to Nieki and the officer was shown the location of five POW cemeteries in the vicinity of Nieki village. Coolies and elephants were employed in clearing the jungle but in four cases all remains appeared to have been removed. The fifth cemetery was located four kilometres from Nieki in the direction of Soncurai. The cemetery, surrounded by the remains of a bamboo fence was small, measuring twenty-five metres by twenty metres. Local inhabitants said that previously the cemetery contained wooden crosses. These are now non-existent though one cross, uninscribed, was found just outside the fence. The cemetery was thoroughly cleared of jungle but no traces of graves removed or unremoved could be found though a considerable number of excavations were made. At about ten metres from the back fence of the cemetery, the officer was shown five large cremation mounds. These were examined and a considerable number of British-type army buttons, belt buckles and other metal pieces of equipment were found. From the amount of ash and particles of bone, it seemed apparent that between fifty to one hundred persons were cremated on this site. The mounds appeared to have been previously undisturbed. As far as could be gathered from conversations with local people, all dead British POWs who were brought to the cemetery were cremated, after which presumably a cross of remembrance was erected in the cemetery. A quantity of the ash was collected and brought back to Kanburi.
After completing the search of the Nieki area, the party then proceeded to Takanun which was reached on 20th December. As will be seen from a map of the railway between Nieki and Takanun the following cemeteries are located in the area, Konquoita, Krian Krai, Tamaran Pat and Nam Chon Yai. During the present season it is virtually impossible to reach these cemeteries. Firstly, boats are unable to proceed past Takanun and, secondly, the elephant path from Nieki to Takanun is on the opposite side of the river to the railway and at a considerable distance from the river. The jungle is very thick in this area and cutting through the jungle for long distances is not feasible.
At Takanun two cemeteries were visited but as far as could be observed, all graves had been removed. The party left Takanun on 22nd December and proceeded down river to Kanburi. An attempt was made to visit all cemeteries between Takanun and Kanburi where unlocated remains have been reported.
The following is a report on the various localities.
(2) The general impression gained was that the removal of remains from
various cemeteries, with the exception of Changaraya and Nieki has been
pretty well covered.