to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

17m. Seary Collection

Actual period photographs of the men and events on the TBR are rare. The vast majority of photos available were taken in the immediate post-war period. There are only two sources of photos from 1942-44. A few POWs concealed cameras and managed to take a few photographs. When this film was finally processed and printed, it shows the obvious effects of rough handling during the period of concealment. The IJA dispatched teams of photographers and film makers to document the building of the Railway. Apparently, only a portion of those prints exist today. We know from survivor accounts that both the completion ceremony in OCT 1943 and the dedication of the memorial obelisk in Kanchanaburi in Mar 44 were documented on film, but these and any other film records do not seem to have survived the war.

There is a YOUTUBE video in which one of those photographers is shown some prints and he expressed amazement that they still exist. It is not clear if such documentation was deliberately destroyed in the immediate post-war era or perhaps at a later date.

 Australian Sapper Arthur Seary was taken as a POW in the DEI in early 1942 and worked the TBR as a member of the 2/11 Field Company. At some point in his travels, he came into possession of forty or so photographs taken by the official IJA team. He donated these to the Australian War Museum.

I present some of those photographs here as a way to preserve and make them available. Personally, I find the search engine of the AWM to be quite onerous to navigate.

Some of these photographs have been reproduced many times often without attribution. Others among them are rarely viewed. Together they present a unique view of POW life in 1942-43.

Here are some other photographs that are believed to have been taken by the official IJA team as opposed to post-war searchers. It is possible, however, that a few of these may be ‘re-enactments’ photographed by follow-on forces.

Here are also a set of photos of elephants at work that could be period OR post-war. A few of them bear the ‘watermark’ of the person who posted them to FACEBOOK, but he is obviously not the ‘original owner’.

The British Imperial War Museum also has (overlapping) collections of TBR-related photographs. Many, if not most, of these collections deal with the war in Burma not the TBR.

There is a monument to Sapper Seary in north Queensland AUS, but it contains no reference to his role in the above.—local/display/91931-arthur-seary