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.
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 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
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.