Separating fact from fiction on a visit to the bridge over the River Kwai

It wasn’t until L found out that the Thai adventure group was headed to the bridge over the River Kwai today that she discovered the movie of the same name was fictional. She may have not given it a lot of thought over the years, but her childhood memory of seeing the film is that she was seeing something that had historically happened.

Something did happen but it was more about building the railway. Here’s the true story according to Commonwealth War Graves Commission:

“The notorious Burma-Siam railway, built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma. During its construction, approximately 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along the railway. An estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died in the course of the project, chiefly forced labour brought from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Siam (Thailand) and Burma. Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma, worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre.”

The curved-shaped truss spans of the bridge are original, constructed by the Japanese military during WWII,  while the two trapezoidal-shaped bridge spans were provided by Japan as war reparations after the war ended in 1945 (to replace two curved-shaped truss spans that fell into the river after the bridge was attacked and bombed by Allied aircraft.)

All proving the more you sort something out, the more confusing it gets. But bridge as well as a ride on the Death Railway is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Thailand.

So the Adventurers and the Lussier clan drove to Kanchanaburi where they boarded a train that largely went along the river to Namtok. There was pretty scenery along the way to view – and a sense of how the railway was built.

Once there, they enjoyed yet another good lunch before taking the drive back to Amphawa. It was a long but good day…

Top photo by kind Canadian tourists; bottom photo by Dennis Nugent (c) 2018

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