Sunday, April 25, 2010

Anzac Day at Hellfire Pass

Reader Pira writes from Thailand, having returned from the site where my uncle barely survived as a prisoner of war:

I just got home from my annual pilgrimage to the ANZAC day dawn service at Hellfire Pass in Kanchanaburi province in Thailand. There was a remarkably large turn out of Aussies there this year in view of the troubles in Thailand right now.

As usual, museum curator Bill Slaype and his Thai team did a magnificent job of organising the event.

I arrived at 4.30 am and the cutting was already crowded with Australians of all ages. 5 POW’s were present this year, including the indomitable West Australian Bill Haskell. The forest steps and paths leading down from the magnificent museum in to the pass, was lit by bamboo oil lamps in the trees. Every one present was given a candle in a bamboo candle holder which adds to the poignancy of the occasion.

The Australian military as usual, carried out their ceremonial duties with dignity and polish. In that setting and in the exact place where so many of our men were foully worked to death under inhuman and atrocious conditions, Pipe Major Keith Walker and Piper Angus McKernan’s “Flowers of the Forest” would have brought tears to a glass eye.

Weary Dunlop’s ashes are spread in one part of the pass. I’m sure he would approve of the tribute paid to the men he did so much to help and comfort. 

Altogether a magic morning.

Back in Kanchanaburi town I, as I always do, visited the main war cemetery which these days is almost in the centre of town. The cemetery is immaculately maintained by the tireless Queenslander Rod Beattie and his dedicated Thai team.

So many young men lie there, so many of them only in their 20’s felled by cholera, typhoid and such diseases. The proud claim is that none of them ever died alone, As their lives ebbed away, they were attended to by their mates who were also in an emaciated and weakened state.

We have much to be grateful for for their sacrifice.

And okay, shamelessly sentimental, but I don't care. Terry Kelly with A Pittance of Time:

Thought it might have been from England to start with, but it's from Canada obviously.

Posted via email from Garth's posterous

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