to perpetuate the memory and history of our dead

8.4 Kanchanaburi Railway HQ and POW camps

The first 50 or so Kms of the TBR ran from Nong Pladuk to Kanchanaburi across rather flat and unobstructed terrain. This section was completed in only a few weeks. It required quite a number of small bridges and some leveling but for the most part the rails ran straight and true. The same was true of the first 50 or so Kms coming out of Thanbyuzayat at the other end of the TBR.

By mid-NOV 1942, a large number of the IJA support staff and Railway Engineer units had moved to Kanchanaburi. This was to remain a major supply and repair hub throughout the construction and operational phases of the TBR. While two different Engineer Battalions were building the bridges, work was also going on across the river. For the most part, boats were used to move all supplies from KAN up the Kwae Noi river to the other camps.

This is where Khun BoonPong [see Section 8.13] became involved as a contract merchant supplying locally available items to the TBR camps.

After the completion of the TBR, the POWs and many of the romusha was consolidated at a number of camps running east down to the area of the Aerodrome. One important area was a large railyard and repair facility at Khao Din between the walled city of Kanchanaburi and Tha Muang.

Many important facilities including hospitals were located in and around the walled city. These included an aerodrome and at least five separate POW cemeteries. The current large CWGC cemetery in downtown KAN lies at the site of the largest of these.

map complied by the staff of the TBRCentre

Another exiting landmark is the now abandoned Paper Factory which many POWs mention in their stories. It was also used in the filming of the movie THE RAILWAY MAN.

The US POws were housed primarily in the camp area known as Thamakam located next to the two bridges.

The air-recon photo above denotes the road to LatYa. This was apparently considered as an optional route for the river crossing. It would have taken the railway some 5-6 Km westward from the site of the eventual Iron Bridge. There was apparently a bridge in that area that no longer exists near the horse-shoe bend in the river (see the bridge marked as TaDan above). Seemingly this route would have avoided the need for the Khao Poon cuttings near ChungKai and even the WangPo viaduct and would have rejoined the actual tracing in the vicinity of the Wang Lan Camp (Lat 13.58 N; Long 99.27 E). But once the stable river bed at Thamakan was determined, it was a considerably shorter route to loop back to ChungKai and then follow the river westward. Plus, the ChungKai area was an easily accessible crossing point for barges near the walled city of Kanchanaburi that allowed construction to proceed even as the bridges were being built.

Building the bridges:

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