The Long Ride Home Anzac Day Hellfire Pass

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The Long Ride Home Anzac Day Hellfire Pass and Kanchanaburi Thailand 2018

An early morning start for the Anzac Day dawn service 2018 at Hellfire Pass in the region of Konyu Kanchanaburi. A special visit from Lieutenant General Angus Campbell, Chief of the Australian Army in attendance.

The new renovations of the Australian Memorial Museum at Hellfire Pass are well and truly underway and promises to provide a newer image for the aging museum.

Preparations for such an event take on a professional approach, not only just to make it another Anzac Day service but for those involved to have the motivation and the willingness to put in the hard yards to make it the best of the best. Today, the Hellfire Museum staff, Australian Embassy personnel on posting, and visiting military personnel from bases afar and ships in port did just that.

Both at the Hellfire Pass and Commonwealth War Graves in Kanchanaburi combined were one of the best Anzac Day services I’d ever attended.

The scene was set for the dawn service with lights along the Pass in position very early for those attending to get a feel for the area where 69 POWs were beaten to death, where many others died from illness, and the countless who survived to later suffer from their time chipping away under appalling conditions to make the pass through the mountain some 75 years ago.

First light appeared through the jungle canopy above, the attending crowd heightened by the sound of awaking insects and local bird life sounding off before the Anzac Day bagpipers hit a single pitch and the army bugler played the first reveille.

I commend Warrant Officer 2 Chris Moc from the Australian Embassy and his staff for the pre-training of the Anzac Day catafalque party for both services. This year the party consisted of a mixture of army
and navy first timers with different basic parade drills already imbedded and that alone making it a very hard task to accomplish in such a short time.

As per normal in Thailand, a later service was held at the Commonwealth War Graves 80 kms away in the township of Kanchanaburi. In attendance approximately 30 Ambassadors from various nations, a large Thai military contingent, British troops on posting Singapore with other guests including the three charities; The Long Ride Home, Warrior Racing Limited & New Zealand’s Fallen Heroes invited to individually lay wreaths at the memorial cross.

A big mention to the two former POWs of the Thai Burma Death Railway Harold Martin 101 years of age and Neil McPherson 98 years of age ex POWs who returned to the areas where they were held in captivity during that time.

On behalf of the three charities I take this opportunity to pass on my many thanks to The Australian Ambassador to Thailand Mr. Paul Robilliard and Embassy staff both military and civilian for a very impressive Anzac Day service and for their outstanding support and sponsorship for the three charities on the day.

A big thank you to volunteers - Stewart Duncan and crew, Ben, Seth, Andy and Ian Coates military artists for contributing so much to the post Anzac Day event and distribution of marketing merchandise in support of the three charities. Your hard work is very much appreciated by all and doesn’t go unnoticed.

If you’ve never attended an Anzac Day service in Thailand I highly recommend that you put it on your future agenda - you won’t be disappointed.

Information provided by the Australian Government Department of Veteran Affairs: The commemoration of the 75th anniversary of Australian work on Hellfire Pass and completion of the Thai-Burma Railway will be one of the key events of DVA’s Century of Service program in 2018.

A national service to mark the anniversary will take place in Ballarat, Victoria Australia on 16 October 2018 and in Thailand pending.

More than 2,800 Australians are believed to have died working on the Railway, some 700 of them at one of its most notorious sites, Hellfire Pass.

Hellfire Pass was named for both the brutal conditions under which prisoners worked and the fact that at night the scene was lit by carbide lights, bamboo fires and hessian wicks in containers full of diesel oil. One former prisoner remarked that it ‘looked like a scene out of Dante’s Inferno’. The work began at Hellfire Pass in late April 1943.

Shifts lasted for 18 hours until the cutting was complete after some six weeks. Work on the railway continued until 16 October 1943 when the two ends of the track were joined after a very short duration between 1942 and 1943 and at the cost of over 12,000 Allied POWs and 120,000 Asian Force Labourers.

More information on Hellfire Pass history and the Australian Memorial Museum located above the Pass administered by veteran affairs through our Australian Embassy in Thailand can be obtained at:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hellfire_Pass

https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/history/conflicts/thaiburma-railway-and-hellfire-pass/locations/remembering-railway/hellfire-pass-0

It is hoped that The Long Ride Home for PTSD Awareness can be part of the 75th Anniversary in October to commemorate the completion of the Thai Burma Death Railway construction line.

A 2,500Km ride is planned for the event starting from Changi prison Singapore to Thanbyuzayat in Myanmar (Burma) via the Commonwealth War Graves in Kanchanaburi and later at Hellfire Pass.

May they Rest In Peace. We shall remember them and keep the spirit of the railway alive.

Truck Sams On The Long Ride Home Anzac Day in Thailand