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The Birma Railway, Myanmar



 


Notes: History
A railway route between Thailand and Burma had been surveyed at the beginning of the 20th century, by the British government of Burma, but the proposed course of the line — through hilly jungle terrain divided by many rivers — was considered too difficult to complete.
In 1942, Japanese forces, supplies and equipment transported from East and North Asia to Burma by sea, through the Strait of Malacca, were vulnerable to attack by Allied submarines, and an alternative means of transport was needed. The Japanese started the project in June 1942, intending to connect Ban Pong with Thanbyuzayat, through the Three Pagoda Pass. Construction started at the Thai end on June 22, 1942 and in Burma at roughly the same time. Most railway materials, including tracks and sleepers, were carted from dismantled branches of the Federated States of Malaya Railways network.
On October 17, 1943, the two lines met about 18 km south of the Three Pagoda Pass at Konkuita (Kaeng Khoi Tha), Songklaburi district, Kanchanaburi). While most of the POWs were then transferred to Japan, those left to maintain the line still suffered from the appalling living conditions as well as Allied air raids.
The most famous portion of the railway is probably Bridge 277 over the Khwae Yai River (Thai แควใหญ่, English "big tributary"). (The river was originally known as the Mae Klong and was renamed Khwae Yai in 1960.) It was immortalized by Pierre Boulle in his book and the film based on it: The Bridge on the River Kwai. However, there are many who say that the movie is utterly unrealistic and does not show what the conditions and treatment of prisoners was really like (link here). The first wooden bridge over the Khwae Noi (Thai แควน้อย, English "small tributary") was finished in February 1943, followed by a concrete and steel bridge in June 1943. The Allies made several attempts to destroy the bridges, but only succeeded only in damaging them in their first attempts. On April 2, 1945, AZON bomber crews from the U.S. 458th Heavy Bombardment Group destroyed Bridge 277. After the war, two squarish central sections were made in Japan to repair the bridge, and were donated to Thailand.
After the war the railway was in too poor a state to be used for the civil Thai railway system, and needed heavy reconstruction. On June 24, 1949, the first part from Kanchanaburi to Nong Pladuk (Thai หนองปลาดุก) was finished; on April 1, 1952, the next section up to Wang Pho (Wangpo); and finally on July 1, 1958, up to Nam Tok (Thai น้ำตก, English "waterfalls".) The portion of the railway still in use measures about 130 km. Beyond Nam Tok, the line has been abandoned. Steel rails have been removed 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 Pladuk-Suphanburi and Ban Thung Pho-Khirirat Nikhom branch lines. Parts of it have been converted into a walking trail.
Since the 1990s there have been plans to rebuild the complete railway, but these plans have not yet come to fruition.
The people who built the Burma Railway
Conditions during construction
The living and working conditions on the railway were horrific. The estimated total number of civilian labourers and POWs who died during construction is about 160,000. About 25% of the POW workers died because of overwork, malnutrition, and diseases like cholera, malaria, and dysentery. The death rate of the Asian civilian workers was even higher; the number who died is unknown, as the Japanese did not count them.
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 Pakanbaroe to Moeara.
The construction of the Burma Railway is only one of many major war crimes committed by Japan in Asia during the war. It is regarded as a major event in the "Asian Holocaust", during which millions of civilians and POWs were killed by Japanese personnel.
Cemeteries and memorials
The graves of the POWs who died were transferred from camp burial grounds and solitary sites along the railway to three war cemeteries after the war, except for Americans, who were repatriated. The main POW cemetery is in the city of Kanchanaburi, where 6,982 POWs are buried, mostly British, Australian , Dutch and Canadians. A smaller cemetery a bit farther outside city is Chung Kai with 1,750 graves. At Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar there are some 3,800 burials of POWs who died on the Northern part of the line, to Nieke. The three cemeteries are maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.
There are several museums dedicated to those who lost their lives constructing the railway, the largest of which is at Hellfire Pass (north of the current terminus at Nam Tok), a cutting where the greatest number of lives were lost. There is also an Australian memorial at Hellfire Pass.
Two other museums are in Kanchanaburi, the Thailand-Burma Railway Museum (opened in March 2003), and the JEATH War Museum.
At the Khwae bridge there is a memorial plaque and a historic locomotive is on display.
A preserved section of line is at the National Memorial Arboretum, in England.
Prominent people who helped build the line
* Sir Ernest Edward "Weary" Dunlop, Australian surgeon renowned for his leadership of POWs on the railway
* Frank Pantridge, British physician
* Philip Toosey, Senior Allied officer at the Bridge on the River Kwai
* Alec Bourne, 94 years of age and still well
De Dodenspoorlijn (Death Railway) of ook wel Birmaspoorweg is de bijnaam gegeven door geallieerde krijgsgevangen in de Tweede Wereldoorlog aan de spoorlijn die zij gedwongen werden aan te leggen tussen Nong Pladuk in Thailand en Thanbyauzayat in Myanmar (Birma). Het werk aan de spoorlijn begon op 16 september 1942 en werd slechts 16 maanden later voltooid. Dit ondanks de berekeningen van Japanse ingenieurs die dachten dat het minimaal 5 jaar zou duren om de 415 kilometer lange en 1 meter brede spoorlijn aan te leggen.
Tijdens de aanleg stierven per dag gemiddeld 75 arbeiders; 15.000 Krijgsgevangenen stierven aan uitputting, ziekte en ondervoeding. Onder hen waren 7.000 Britten, 4.500 Australiërs, 131 Amerikanen en bijna 3.000 Nederlanders. Onder de westerse krijgsgevangenen waren veel KNIL-militairen en Nederlanders uit toenmalig Nederlands-Indië). Ook stierven ongeveer 100.000 Thaise en Indonesische koelies en ook Birmaanse en Maleise dwangarbeiders bij de aanleg door het moeilijke gebied. De Japanners zetten mogelijke (dwang) arbeidskrachten in om deze lijn aan te leggen.
Na de voltooiing van de spoorweg in december 1943 bestond het werk uit onderhoud en reparatie van schade door geallieerde bommenwerpers. De werkkampen lagen vaak naast vitale punten van de spoorweg, waardoor bombardementen ook veel slachtoffers en gewonden onder de dwangarbeiders veroorzaakten.
Veel overlevenden ondervonden later geestelijke problemen. Ook hun nazaten hebben nog problemen gehad: het zogenaamde Tweede-generatie syndroom. Deze spoorlijn is in het westen voornamelijk bekend van de film Brug over de rivier de Kwai. Tegenwoordig is de spoorlijn nog in gebruik tot aan Nam Tok in de provincie Kanchanaburi. De spoorlijn volgt na de brug bij de stad Kanchanaburi voor een groot gedeelte de loop van Kwai Noi rivier. Ironisch genoeg was de eerste trein die over de spoorlijn reed een Bordeeltrein voor Japanse officieren.
De doden, die aanvankelijk langs de spoorweg werden begraven, zijn later (her)begraven op drie erevelden: Chungkai en Kanchanaburi in Thailand en Thanbyuzayat in Birma. Deze werden aangelegd op initiatief van de 'Commonwealth War Graves Commission': de Britse zusterorganisatie van de Nederlandse Oorlogsgravenstichting.

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City/Town : Latitude: 19.75, Longitude: 96.2


Died

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   Last Name, Given Name(s)    Died    Person ID 
1 Savenije, Eustachius Hendrikus Marie  19 Jan 1944The Birma Railway, Myanmar I7212

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