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The railway was one of the great engineering feats of the Second World War. Asian labourers and Prisoners of War (P.O.W.) moved 7 million cubic metres of earth and rock in constructing the 415 kilometre railway; 14 kilometres of which were 8 steel and 640 timber bridges.

This famous steel bridge was built between October 1942 and May 1943, using eleven 21 metre prefabricated spans plundered by the Japanese from Dutch Java. At the same time a wooden trestle bridge was built 300 metres downstream; it was immortalized in the book and film "The Bridge on the River Kwai".

From February 1945 Allied aircraft raids repeatedly damaged the bridges. P.O.W. from a large camp 400 metres downstream repaired them; even so by June 1945 the bridges were impassable.

The steel bridge was repaired post-war with two 32 metre box-shaped spans, provided as War Reparation by the Japanese.

Still in daily use the bridge stands as a memorial to the pain and suffering of so many.

Asian Labourers 2000,000 +/- 80,000+/-
British P.O.W. 30,000 6,540
Dutch P.O.W. 18,000 2,830
Australian P.O.W. 13,000 2,710
American P.O.W. 700+/- 356 (Buried in U.S.A)
Japanese and Korean 15,000 1,000

Construction time for the railway was 17 month. Period of effective use was 21 months ending in June 1945. The railway line was dismantled by the British after the war as it was unsafe. It was later relaid along the section from The Bridge on the River Kwai to Nam Tok, a distance of 130kms. It is along this section that todays tourists can relive the feelings of the war.


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