Sunday, May 01, 2005


I've gone all patriotic.

After reading the transcription of my grandfather's diary, and some changes of plans that allowed me the time, I managed to make it to Hellfire Pass for the dawn service.

My grandfather spent 8 months (of 3 years POW) working on the "Death Railway". He mentions a few places - Wampoh, Kinsayok, Kamburi, Rin Tin - in his diary, and I have been able to place these. He then talks in miles, and my brief calculations make me think that he was based around Sangkhla. He talks of friends dying, and working 15-hour days in boiling heat with no tools. The grandfather of one of our local staff died making this railway; the Thai, Mon and Burmese people are not often mentioned in our Australian memorials.

So, I stayed overnight in the only available hotel nearby, with busloads of other Aussies on group tours (a cultural shock in itself). We left at 4 for Hellfire Pass.

The site is at the end of the cutting through the rock, and you walk down about 200 stairs to get into the cutting. The path was lined with bamboo lanterns and we were each given a candle at the start.

So, at 5am on a humid Thailand morning, I followed a line of glowing candles into the dark of the cutting. 62 years ago the torches that gave the place its name burned here, and 700 of 1000 prisoners died making this short break in the rock. About 400 of us came to remember, and when the Thai soldiers played the Last Post, I admit that the tears came to my eyes.

So, Grandpa, even though you didn't talk about it and, as a teenager, I didn't get to know you very well, I am trying to understand a little what it must have been like.

If any of the Lowes clan want more details about the places, or can help me piecing things together, please email me.

1 comment:

Mick said...

Wow. That would have been amazing. It's somewhere that I'd definately like to go. I'm not sure that I'd like to go there with the tour groups though.

I have a friend who's a member of the East Keilor RSL (he's not a digger-it's his local) and I meant to go to the service there, except that I woke up on ANZAC day to see the sun streaming through the window...

PS. I handed my thesis in on wednesday. I'm pleased.

PPS. We lost the grand final 22-28. We only had 6 players. I'll email a full match report.