Kanchanaburi War Cemetery - History and Facts | History Hit

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

Kanchanaburi, Kanchanaburi Province, Thailand

WWII cemetery where 7,000 POWs Japanese prisonners are buried.

Antara Bate

24 Nov 2020
Image Credit: Shutterstock

About Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery – known locally as the Don-Rak cemetery – is located on the main road (Saeng Chuto Road) in the town of Kanchanaburi.

There lies close to 7,000 former prisoners of war (POWs), mostly British, Australian and Dutch but other Commonwealth servicemen as well, who sacrificed their lives building the Death Railway during World War Two. This was the notorious 258 mile long Burma-Siam railway, which the Japanese forced POWs to construct during the war.

It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery history

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, known locally as the Don-Rak War Cemetery, is the main prisoner of war cemetery for victims of Japanese imprisonment while building the Burma Railway.

The Burma-Siam railway was a Japanese project driven by the need for improved communications to support the large Japanese army in Burma and was built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war. During its construction, approximately 13,000 of these people were died and buried along the railway. Around 80,000 to 100,000 civilians also died during the course of the project, mostly forced labour from Malaya and the Dutch East Indies or conscripted in Siam and Burma.

The Japanese aimed at completing the railway in 14 months and work began in June 1942. Two labour forces, one based in Siam and the other in Burma worked from opposite ends of the line towards the centre.  The two sections of the line finally met near Konkoita towards the end of October 1943 and the completed line, 424 kilometres long, was operational by December 1943.

The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the Burma-Siam railway (except for the Americans, whose remains were repatriated) were transferred from camp burial grounds and isolated sites along the railway into three cemeteries at Chungkai and Kanchanaburi in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar.

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery was designed by Colin St Clair Oakes.

Kanchanaburi War Cemetery today

There are now 5,085 Commonwealth casualties of the Second World War buried or commemorated in this cemetery. There are also 1,896 Dutch war graves and 1 non-war grave.

Within the entrance building to the cemetery will be found the Kanchanaburi memorial, recording the names of 11 men of the army of undivided India buried in Muslim cemeteries in Thailand, where their graves could not be maintained.

The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is open at all times and visitors are asked to note that there may be snakes in the cemetery.

Getting to Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

The town of Kanchanaburi is 129 kilometres North-West of Bangkok and is best reached by road, along the National Highway which runs north from the capital. There are bus and train services from Bangkok. Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is situated adjacent to Saeng Chuto Road which is the main road through the town. When approaching from Bangkok, the cemetery is on the left side of the road, towards the far (northern) end of the town. A Commission signpost faces the cemetery on the opposite side of the road.

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