The Bridge over the River Kwai


Internationally famous, thanks to several motion pictures and books, the black iron bridge was brought from Java by the Japanese Army and reassembled under Japanese supervision by Allied prisoners of war labour as part of the Death Railway linking Thailand with Myanmar. Still in use today the bridge was the target of frequent Allied bombing raids during 1945, and was rebuilt after the war ended. The curved spans of the bridge are the original sections.

The Death Railway was a strategic railway built between Thailand and Burma. It was 415 kilometres long (about 303 kms in Thailand and about 112 kms in Burma) and passed through the Three Pagoda Pass in Sangkhlaburi District, the most northern part of Kanchanaburi province.

Construction was began on September 16, 1942 at Nong Pladuk, Thailand by approximately 30,000 prisoners of war from England, Australia, Holland and America and more than 200,000 impressed labourers from India, China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Burma and Thailand. Of these, more than 16,000 PoW’s and 100,000 impressed labourers died of many diseases, due to starvation and lack of medical equipment.

It is said that the first survey by the Japanese engineers predicted that it would take at least five years to finish this railway line, but the Japanese army forced the prisoners to complete it in only sixteen months. Thus it was completed on 25 December 1943.

The bridge is famous today because of the 1957 movie, The Bridge on the River Kwai, starring Alec Guiness and William Holden. The movie was shot mainly in Sri Lanka.

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