The Vietnam Swans return to Kanchanaburi this weekend. It’s a significant place in the history of Australia, and very much so on ANZAC Day, when we pay tribute to the armed services of Australia and New Zealand.
The Death Railway, Hellfire Pass and Kanchanaburi
The Death Railway was a horrific railway project that was built in World War II, spanning 415km between Ban Pong in Thailand and Thanbyuzayat in Burma. Its been estimated that up to 250,000 labourers from South East Asia and 61,000 Allied prisoners of war worked on the railway. Over 90,000 labourers and 16,000 prisoners of war died, including 2,815 Australian prisoners of war.
Hellfire Pass was a remote and particularly difficult section of the railway line. Rather than digging a tunnel through the hard rock, the Japanese decided to make a “cutting” down into the rock from above. Construction lasted six weeks, each day 18 hours in the extreme heat. During this time, 69 Allied prisoners of war were beaten to death by the guards and many more died from exhaustion and disease. Deaths amongst Asian labourers were not recorded.
Even for those prisoners of war who survived until the railway’s completion in 1943, it took a further 18 months until the war ended. Tales of survival during this time are harrowing.
Unfortunately, many of the documentaries on the Death Railway were made in the 1980s and haven’t aged so well. The clip below is perhaps the best. For the players and supporters visiting Kanchanaburi, it’s recommended viewing.
The Vietnam Swans First Play in Kanchanaburi
Kanchanaburi is the nearest major town to Hellfire Pass. For many visiting the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum, Kanchanaburi is a convenient base. The town also has a nearby field for football games and scenic views over the River Kwai.
Phil Johns has shared an amazing and historic account of our first ever ANZAC Day memorial game in Kanchanaburi. The slides contain some detailed information and moving photographs from the game, hosted in 2009. This was the game that inspired the Swans to start hosting their own ANZAC memorial games in Vietnam.
The Swans Return to Kanchanaburi in 2018
In 2018, we’ll play our 10th and 11th ever ANZAC Day Matches in a Home & Away series against the Thailand Tigers. The playing group are honoured to get a chance to visit:
- Kanchanaburi on 21st April 2018 for the first game. Full tour details are here.
- Vung Tau on 28 April 2018 for the second game.
The touring squad for Kanchanaburi is: James Bairstow, Bill Crang, Reed Cathcart, Doan Dang, Mark Doherty, Damien Judd, Trung Lê, Vinh Quang Le, Shane Macfarlane, Micka Mathews, Angus McEwin, Barnaby Morgan, Josh Murfet, Nguyen Dinh Anh, Nguyen Quang Vinh, Jake Norris, Oscar Silk, Rodney Stone, Shane Wall, Thomas Watson, Kevin Wilkinson and D’Arcy Wilkosz.
The Thailand Tigers have put together a fantastic guide to the weekend’s proceedings, along with bios of several of the veterans. Well worth a read, great stuff!