Tuesday, 10 May 2005

Context

Posted by speedygeoff On Tuesday, May 10, 2005 | No comments
With so many posts about my family in the last few days, I thought I would contribute this as well, before returning to more mundane matters in future.

The following is an excerpt from my niece’s weblog. She posted this a few days ago and heads it “Anzac Day”.

The “grandfather” she refers to is my father-in-law. I have read his war diary and it is interesting as well as challenging. Three and a half years as prisoner of war, mostly in Changi. And he stayed positive and hopeful throughout. But always thinking that it would soon be over and he could go home.

This sort of puts into context many of our more petty frustrations and trivial successes!

My niece is a 27 year old doctor currently working in a refugee camp in Sangkhlaburi, Thailand.

So here is her Anzac journal entry.

Anzac Day
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.
.

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