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Thailand

Chungkai

Chungkai

The Chungkai  War  Cemetery  is  situated on the banks  of  the Kwai Noi River, about  5  kilometres south of  the centre of  Kanchanaburi  and is  the smaller of  the two  POW  war  cemeteries.  The cemetery can be reached either  by  going  up  river in a  local "long tail"  boat or by road,  crossing  the  Ratanakan Bridge.

Like  the nearby  Kanchanaburi War  Cemetery,  all the  men  buried  in Chungkai perished  while  working  on  the  infamous  Thai/Burma  Railway  constructed during  1942/43.  The cemetery  is  located  on the  same  spot  as  the Chungkai  POW camp  used during  the  construction  of  the railway  line  and  the  bridge  that  spans  the River Kwai.    The long 'aisle'  that  runs  through  the centre of the cemetery  was said to be  the  main  path that ran through  the camp  and  at one end can be  found  two  tall trees  which  it  is claimed stood there  during  the  time of  the  POWs captivity and beneath  which  the  hospital tent  was erected  to  afford  some  shade to  the  ill  and  dying  prisoners.

There  are 1,740 graves  in  Chungkai  of  which  1384 are British  and 313  Dutch.  There are no Australians  buried  in  Chungkai.

As  with  the Kanchanaburi  the  small neat headstones are  bronze,  mounted on a  tilting  concrete  block  on  which  can  be found  the  insignia of  the  regiment  to  which  the  deceased  was attached.

Pathway to Chungkai

By Maurice Rooney

Now that we have strolled along the pathway

Up from the river to the graves at Chungkai

To witness the solitude and beauty

Of the cemetery where a Son and Brother lie.

 

And we who've made this special journey

A pilgrimage we all have shared

Wonder why so many perished

While we who returned were spared.

 

Flowers, shrubs and trees have been planted

Tended with care through all the years

Plaques with name and epitaph printed

We read through freely flowing tears.

 

The prison camps have all now vanished

Grown over by jungle and lost in time

But the graves we see are grim reminders

Of men who were taken in their prime

 

We have this feeling he knows of our presence

Just why its hard to explain

But our journey has achieved a sense of purpose

To be with him just for a while again

 

And all those who sleep out here in Thailand

And other Far East war graves o'er the sea

Will never ever be forgotten

By us who live on, forever free

Kanchanaburi

Kanchanburi

Kanchanaburi  stands  on the banks of  the Mae Khlong River,  at  a point  where  it separates into the  Kwai  Noi  and the Kwai Yai.

It  was here  that  the  Japanese  formed a large  POW  base  camp during the construction  of  the  Thai/Burma Railway, which  also  included  a  large  base  hospital during the period 1942-1945.  The majority of  prisoners of  war  would   pass  through  this  camp as  they were  marched  north  up-country  to work  in  other  camps  along  the  railway.   

Close  to  where  the  former  POW  camp  was  once  situated  is  the  large  Kanchanaburi  War  Cemetery, the  entrance  to which  can be found on the  busy, main  Saeng  Chuto Road  that  runs  through  the centre  of  the town.  It  is  the  largest  of  two  cemeteries  in  the  area  with  approx  7,000 graves of  which  3,568  are  British,  1362  are Australian  and  1,896 Dutch.

All the  graves  in  the Kanchanaburi  War Cemetery  are marked  by bronze plaques,    mounted  on  small  tilted  concrete  blocks.  On  each  bronze plaque  can be  found  the insignia  of  the  regiment of the deceased and beside  each  small grave can be found  local  flowering  shrubs  which are neatly  set  out  in rows  and surrounded  by  green lush  buffalo grass.

 

Thoughts at Kanchanaburi

By T.Harrison

Who were you Corporal Deacon, what tales had you to tell?

Before you were lain in this ground, and escaped your living hell

With beatings all part of your daily round, forced labour, pain, and cruelty

At the hands of a savage army, hell-bent on a quick victory.

 

Did you wander down leafy byways, close by Hatfield, Hitchin, or Ware?

Or perhaps drive down Bedford highways, in Dad's car with hardly a care.

Was your girl a Mary or Doris, or p'raps you married in war's hurried way?

Whatever, I bet you were happy,'til the Second World War held it's sway.

 

Then to the far away shores of Burma, close on Tobruk's bloody fire,

You were part of a Forgotten Army until life, itself, did expire.

Forgotten by many, but not me mate, as I stand by your grave in this heat,

For I'll never forget how you suffered, just so me and mine could live free.

 

I can never forgive the red sun, until bowed by your grave they do stand,

To beg your forgiveness truly, and old enemy ghosts take your hand.