Friday, April 25, 2008

The Bridge on the River Kwai

Today, in Australia, is Anzac Day, the day when we recall the sacrifices made by ordinary Australians who found themselves caught in situations not of their making, but where nonetheless they were expected to risk their lives. Most of us alive today are fortunate not to have been placed in that position, but recognise that our lives would be totally different if it were not for the efforts of those who were.

This bridge is near a little town called Kanchanaburi, 130 km west of Bangkok in Thailand. Allied prisoners of war were forced to build it as part of the Burma railway during World War II. The infamous Burma railway caused the death of more than 16,000 men out of the 60,000 who were engaged in its construction. Many of the survivors had been systematically starved and subjected to brutal treatment at the hands of their Japanese captors. The bridge still exists, and is still used,although these days its major function is as a memorial.

I visited the bridge in 1992, and was fortunate enough to witness a fabulous sound and light show that recounted the story of the bridge and the soldiers who constructed it. Like all war memorials, it provides an extremely moving experience, and causes one to hope that others will not suffer as these men did. I can still recall the chill I felt as I walked across the bridge.

Many people would have seen the famous film, starring Alec Guinness and William Holden, that won several Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Actor (Guinness) and Best Director (David Lean). Because the bridge had to be destroyed for the film, a replica bridge was created for the movie in Sri Lanka.

This is not my photograph; it is reproduced here courtesy of wikimedia.


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