ANZAC DAY IN HELLFIRE PASS, THAILAND 25th APRIL 2019

The Quiet Lion Tour, conducted by the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, was again present on ANZAC Day, 25 April 2019, in Thailand when the event was commemorated with a Dawn Service and Gunfire Breakfast at Hellfire Pass and a Commemorative Service and Wreath Laying at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery.

The Dawn Service is in Hellfire Pass situated in Sai Yoke, commencing at 5.30 a.m. and lasting approximately 40 minutes. The site is actually Kannyu Cutting, below the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre, Kanchanaburi Province.

Hellfire Pass is accessed through the Royal Thai Army camp at Sai Yok which is the site of the Kannyu 1 Prisoner of War Camp and burial grounds from the building of the Burma Thailand Railway. Walking into the site is via newly installed steps and ramps down the steep face of the cutting and then along the old railway line. The ceremonial area at the end of the cutting has limited seating arrangements in hard tiers cut from the rock wall on one side and a substantial temporary grandstand on the other.

There is a catafalque and wreath laying area in the centre of the ceremonial area. Approximately 1,500 people are accommodated in the ceremonial area and another 800 or so people in the adjacent pass.

On completion of the Dawn Service in Kannyu Cutting those attending the service enjoy a complimentary gunfire breakfast in the car park at the Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre.

ANZAC Day in Kanchanaburi, Thailand 25th April 2019–Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

The commemorative service commences at 1100 (11.00 a.m.) at Kanchanaburi (Don Rak) War Cemetery, Kanchanaburi and lasts approximately 50-60 minutes.

All service attendees are invited to attend a Post Service barbeque held directly after the service from 1200 – 1500 in a clearing to the east of the War Cemetery. Generous local sponsors have provided a limited amount of food free of charge, and refreshments are available for purchase with all proceeds to be directed towards service charities.

The 2019 Quiet Lion Tour again attended both services and in the case of Kanchanaburi assisted in the wreath-laying phase. It was significant that ex-POW Harold Martin again attended the services and recited the Ode on both occasions. With assistance, Harold laid a wreath at the Kanchanaburi catafalque and Quiet Lion Tour juniors acted as wreath laying assistants there.

At the Dawn Service, the Anzac Address was delivered by His Excellency Allan McKinnon PSM, the Australian Ambasador to Thailand, and the Statement of Remembrance was delivered by Wing Commander David Bryers, Royal New Zealand Air Force.

At the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery Commemorative Service the prologue was delivered by Air Marshall Leo Davies AO,CSC, Chief of Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, the Anzac Address was delivered by His Excellency Taha Macpherson, New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand.The ex-POW Address was delivered by Mr Eric Wilson APM OAM, Chairman of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association. on behalf of the late Neil MacPherson OAM.

A tribute of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk was delivered by the Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey, Her Excellency Ms Evren Dogdelan Akgun and the Ode of Remembrance by Mr Harold Martin.

In the evening preceding the Anzac Day services, an alfresco welcome reception was hosted in by Home Phu Toey Managing Director Suparerk Soorangoora in the Weary Dunlop Park outside the Dunlop Museum, followed by the traditional Light and Sound Show in the specially built arena, and a celebratory dinner with Australian and New Zealand Ambassadors, service chiefs, dignitaries and the Quiet Lion Group. Quiet Lion group tour leader David Piesse welcomed the guests and invited the two Ambassadors to address those in attendance.

The occasion marked a great prelude to the Anzac Day commemorations. All attending (that were in a position to compare) considered the newly rebuilt and fitted Hellfire Pass Interpretive Centre (hitherto generally known as the Hellfire Pass Museum) was a magnificent effort.

The graphics, exhibits and displays, together with the flow of exhibits, artefacts and video displays make for a remarkable experience. If any features could be isolated from the rest it would be the remarkable full length photographs of the late Bill Haskell rounding a bend in Hellfire Pass with the aid of his walking stick and Harold Martin sitting in a typical pose (Photo by Samm Blake).

The new outside area at the top of stairways to the pass below really adds to the spectacle. All involved in the planning, conception and completion of this project are to be congratulated.

Eric Wilson

Chairman, Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.

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