Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is a place for remembrance and reflection
It’s not so often that a place will bring a person to stop. Tourist thrill seeker, family holidaymakers, package tourists or independent traveler, we should all reflect on the freedom we have to travel.
This is not the freedom of breaking free of a cubicle, a lifestyle nor a cause.
This is the real freedom of choice. A freedom many people died to give us.
A freedom that allows us to live as we do today.
Kanchanaburi War Cemetery or Don-Rak War Cemetery as it’s known locally is the last resting place of nearly 7,000 Prisoners of War who died during the construction of the Burma Death Railway.
Originally buried all along the railway line itself. The Allies decided to move the bodies to three new cemeteries at Thanbyuzayat, Chungkai and Kanchanaburi so that they may be better looked after.
Due to the South East Asian weather conditions traditional headstones could not be used. Instead bronze plaques were used with many inscriptions from families.
I find more emotion here than at the infamous bridge on the river Kwai. These are the real stars, or rather heroes, we should be flocking to see.
Finally, in the corner of Kanchanaburi war cemetery are the rows of tombstones dedicated to the unknown soldiers.
And at the rear is a plot where the ashes of 300 POWs from the cholera outbreak are laid to rest.
There is a quote written on many WWII plaques and tombs.
“Lest we forget …”
I don’t think we will forget. But, I do think we have not been able to learn from our past, yet.
How to get to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery from Bangkok
- There are numerous tour buses offering day trips or transport to Kanchanaburi via mini van and bus.
- Via train there is a special weekend tourist train that leaves from Bangkok’s main train station Hualamphong at a cost of approx 120 bhat. It’s destination is actually the Burma Death Railway but it stops for about 45 minutes at Kanchanaburi train station. Simply walk straight out of the station to the main road, turn left and walk 5 minutes.
- The cemetery is across the road on your right. The weekend train leaves about 6am and returns at 6pm-7pm from Hualamphong with tickets available in advance.
- Another option is to take a train from Bangkok’s Thonburi station.
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21 Replies to “Moving inscriptions from Kanchanaburi War Cemetery”
Very moving post (inscriptions) indeed …
Freedom has it price and like you said, People will never forget, however most never learn from mistake… That’s nature!
I hope we can change our nature. Otherwise we better find another planet to live separately on very soon …
It’s tragic the price that these young soldiers had to pay during a time of conflict.
They were called to pay the ultimate price … so very different from today’s wars.
Shouldn’t that read “LEST we forget”?
WW2 was a battle for survival for the english speaking world
Yes, Martin you are right. I’ve corrected it. Thank you.
It is a word that is never used anywhere else but on military gravestones, so it is a sort of respect thing. (i am anti-military, but WW2 was a necessary survival war, well for English people anyway )
The older i get and the more that i know about the world makes me realise how incredible brave these men were and that they are the reason that we are now living in freedom.
I didn’t realise that there were allied cemeteries in Thailand ! Did you ever visit any military cemeteries in Europe ? Vast fields of crossses
Yes, I visited Auschwitz-Birkenau. Another place that can leave you staggered. The machinery of death is so very visible there. The ash ponds are horrific. The photographs on the trees of people trying to escape is haunting. I would like to go back, know what I have learned from my journey to date.
I still feel a tug in my heart when I saw your photos.. I visited the cemetery one late afternoon after spending the day at the Death Railway Museum which is just across the cemetery. One poignant line… Lest we forget. Days after the visit, I still can’t help to feel sad and a bit emotional when I think of how much these men had endured and that the lives of these men can never be compensated. A stop at this cemetery is the best reminder that we, who were fortunate not to be part of any of the World Wars, should never forget our history, the war, the horror and the pain these young men had to face then. Unless we learn from our history, keep in mind and heart the sacrifice of so many people before us, and have the humility to acknowledge what others have done for us to get to where we are now, then the sacrifice of these mostly young men were not in vain.
True words Marnie, very true. I see humanity remembering, but I don’t see us making good what we should have learned. Otherwise, why are we all still fighting?
But yes, if one is visiting this area a stop here is a must. It’s one of those rare experiences in travel that makes you feel something completely different. I wonder what would happen if you put some world leaders in there and told them to draw up a peace plan to a current conflict. I wonder how quickly it would get done then.
You are a person of good character. Small deeds like this post tell a lot about someone, well done.
Thank you Anna, but really such things are trivial compared to what these people went through.
Yes. we seem to forget that the cause of these deaths were tyrannical governments that usurped the freedoms of their people.
Unfortunately, tyranny never seems to die out.
Nor do governments ever stop trying to figure out “clever” ways to take away the freedoms of their people.
Freedom is something that always has to be fought for – in the past, in todays world and into the future.
Look at what the western world is forcing on it’s citizens and it is surprising that the whole industrialized world is not up in arms fighting their governments.
These men died for a cause, and if we, of today, forget that cause their lives will have truly been lost for nothing.
John D. Wilson
John you speak of the world as it is today. I look at the past from a place like Kanchanaburi War Cemetery and wonder how we are still in the same mess ….
I don’t know where we are going, but I hope it’s not back to place like the Death Railway.
I will not forget, but I do want to have learned the lessons history has told of our past. I do believe this is the way forward.
Thanks for reminding us of our freedoms. Things that we tend to overlook on a daily basis. This is very moving Dave, thank you.
Your welcome guys, glad you found it moving.
A vist to the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is something I missed whilst in the country. As the clock slowly winds forward and we all begin to grow older, I just hope that these brave souls are not forgotten.
One strange way there has been a revival of ANZAC day in Australia has actually been due to a football match hosted on the 25th of April (ANZAC Day) every year. It has placed the history of these harsh years directly in front of those who attend the match, and has created a new awareness to the young here in Australia.
It won’t be long and the last living survivors of the Great War will be gone, and it will be the young that will be left to carry their memory forward. I for one thank these hero’s. ‘Lest We Forget’
When I was there in 1997, I remembered visiting this Kanachanaburi war cemetery. It was solemn, quiet and very peaceful, beautiful greenery and flowers.
Yet, it lies the heroes that gave away their lives for the sake of future generations. A moment of silence I observed when I was standing there, remembering the brave and fallen soldiers.
Lest We Forget – we must remember the history and not repeat the horrors of war, whether or not the human race has learned their lessons today, is still a question mark in my humble opinion.
The music of the Last Post always ring in my mind whenever I am in this type of memorial areas/war cemetery.
I spent the afternoon at this cemetary and it was the most moving experience I have ever had. To see so many men who had died so far away from home but remembered eternally by family and friends was heartwarming in this day and age.
Wow….you pay these heros the greatest of all honors…REMEMBERANCE
I visited the cemetery by the bridge in 1974 and again in 1976 and to this day I am in awe of the site and what these brave men endured in the fight for freedom and we hoped, future peace! I don`t have the answer, is there one?
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