My 5: Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, Thailand.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Thailand

1. April 2015. A visit to the town of Kanchanaburi is like stepping into a giant, breathing memorial to one of Thailand’s darkest historical chapters. For it was here that so many prisoners of war toiled away on the infamous Thai-Burma Railway, also known as The Death Railway, back in the early 1940s. Over one hundred thousand people lost their lives in frankly appalling conditions as they unwillingly helped the Japanese empire in its ongoing campaign to maintain rule over Burma. Among those who died were an estimated 12000 members of the Allied Forces, 7000 of which were laid to rest here in this touching cemetery right in the heart of town.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Thailand

2. April 2015. Over half of the memorial stones here belong to fallen British soldiers, with the entire right side of the cemetery (as you enter) belonging exclusively to The UK.  There are also a large number of Australian graves (front left as you enter) and a sizeable Dutch section at the back of the compound. No American POWs were buried here as their remains were returned to the USA.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Thailand

3. April 2015. The gardens here really are beautiful, with well-tended plants, perfectly trimmed hedges and a number of fabulous trees scattered around. There’s also a marble memorial for the cremated, with the proclamation “Their glory shall not be blotted out”. I can only hope this place brings some comfort to those who travel halfway across the world to pay their respects to family members who died in Kanchanaburi during World War II.

British soldier grave Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Thailand

4. April 2015. The gravestones are simple but elegant and it’s a hugely sobering experience to stroll along each row, pausing here and there to read a few of the engraved stones. Each plot is marked with its occupant’s name, country, rank, date of birth/death and a short line of tribute from the family. As is so often the case with these kinds of sites, so many of those who perished were depressingly young, with the majority being in their mid twenties. It’s hard to imagine the extent of the horror G.T. Shelton went through in his final days working on the Death Railway.

Memorial register Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Thailand

5. April 2015. Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is located on Sangchuto Road, is free to enter and open daily from 08:00-17:00. You can mark your visit with a message in the memorial register, or simply read the endless touching notes and stories that lie within. To get a better sense of the cemetery’s importance check out the excellent Death Railway Museum just across the road.

I love exploring the world’s historical cemeteries. For similar articles, have a look at my pieces on:

Arlington Cemetery (Washington DC)

The UN Memorial Cemetery (Busan, Korea)

St. Michael’s Chapel & Cemetery (Macau)

For more on this fascinating Thai Town have a leaf through my other articles on Kanchanaburi.

Like these? I’ve written a whole bunch of My 5s from all across Thailand.

Leighton Literature travel reports short stories travel blogger

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Freelance travel writer, voice over and English teacher from London. Former music and film journalist, interviewer of the stars. Passionate about travel, film, music, football, Indian food.

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