Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

More Than 100,000 People Died during the Building of the Bridge on the River Kwai, Including Several Thousand Australians, Writes DAVID ELLIS; Guests at a New Resort Can Look Straight across to the Bridge on the River Kwai

Newspaper article The Northern Star (Lismore, Australia)

More Than 100,000 People Died during the Building of the Bridge on the River Kwai, Including Several Thousand Australians, Writes DAVID ELLIS; Guests at a New Resort Can Look Straight across to the Bridge on the River Kwai

Article excerpt

GUESTS at a deluxe new boutique resort that opens in Thailand in October of this year can expect goose-bumps down the spine at least once during their stay.

Because as they take evening cocktails before a million-dollar sunset view, they'll also be looking across to one of the world's most-emotive and famous structures: The Bridge on the River Kwai.

Built in 1942-43 as part of Japan's horrendous Burma Death Railway that ran 415km from Bangkok to Rangoon, the iron bridge was just one of many along a route hacked through mountainous jungle by 60,000 Allied prisoners of war and 180,000 enforced Asian labourers.

And all in a seemingly-impossible 16 months.

Estimates vary, but most historians agree that around 90,000 Asian labourers died during the building of the railway, while 16,000 Allied Prisoners of War - British, Australian, Dutch, Americans and Canadians - also succumbed to brutal conditions that included stints of working over 30 hours straight to complete the final stages of the line.

More than 2800 of those who died were Australians.

Many guests to the new U Hotels and Resorts Inchantree Resort at Kanchanaburi on the banks of the River Kwai and within view of the Bridge, will doubtless reflect on the history of the infamous railway as they sip their poolside cocktails, watch the kingfishers flitting across the now-peaceful waterway, and muse at the colourful river traffic.

Others will possibly find themselves thinking back to the 1957 movie Bridge on the River Kwai and its theme tune, the inspirational but hauntingly-whistled Colonel Bogey March.

But they should not take too much of the movie as fact. While based on the diabolical conditions imposed on those forced to build the Death Railway, the major theme of the destruction of the bridge by prisoners of war that inspired the novel and the subsequent movie, was pure fiction from the pen of French writer Pierre Boulle.

Rather than the Bridge on the River Kwai being blown up by the POWs who'd built it, sending a trainload of high-ranking Japanese officers to their deaths, the Bridge was not destroyed until the American Air Force bombed it in April 1945. …

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