Its been a big couple of days for us. Firstly Ed and I took a bus one hour north to an area called Sai Yok to rendevous with my sister Lisa, her husband Steven and my nephews Max and Alec. Originally Ed and I would have reached Thailand after they had finished their holiday so it was brilliant that we changed our plans which allowed us to meet up eith the family in the this quiet little part of the world.
The reason that we were in the particular corner of Thailand is very important. This area is the site of the Burma-Thai railway a railway line that was built by the Japanese during WWII using Australian, British and Dutch prisoners of war as labour. My Uncle John was unlucky to be one of these prisoners of war and for 3 and half years suffered starvation, 16 hour work days and brutality at the hands of the Japanese. Over 100,000 people died building this railway including the poor local labourers who were coerced into working on the line too. Diseases like Cholera, Malaria and Dysentry stalked the prisoners as they laboured through mountains of sheer rock with only hand held tools, wearing little clothing, bare feet. If you got sick, you still had to work, if you were too sick to work you didn't get fed.
Uncle John was stationed at the most notorious part of the railway, Hellfire Pass. This area is now a memorial to the POW's who suffered there and it is quite an amazing place. It is hard to believe such a tranquil and beautiful place was the site of so much pain. Though the sheer scale and density of the rock they had to cut through virtually with their bare hands is there for all to see. I tried to walk through the pass barefoot to see what it must have been like, within seconds rocks were cutting into my feet - I can't even imagine how people survived. But the good news is that my Uncle John DID survive, came home, married my Auntie and became my very favourite uncle.