NEW WEBSITE CAPTURES MEMORIES OF HELLFIRE PASS

Some of the experiences of Australian Prisoners of War (POWs) at Hellfire Pass during the Second World War are featured in a new website that will help commemorate their plight and raise public awareness. The Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association has played a part in ensuring that Hellfire Pass in Thailand on the Thai-Burma Railway has become synonymous with the Australian POW experience in Asia. The experience of Australian prisoners at Hellfire Pass and at other locations on the railway was horrendous. More than 13,000 Australian prisoners of war were forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway. Work commenced on Hellfire Pass in April 1943, with prisoners working grueling 18 hour shifts, day after day, removing large amounts of earth from the cutting. They were forced to live in terrible conditions, often starving, with no medical supplies resulting in a very high death rate with more than 2,800 Australians perishing... Working in partnership with the Australian National University, the Australian Government through the Department of Veterans Affairs have develop a unique website to take visitors on a ‘virtual tour’ through the Hellfire Pass area today and as it was during the Second World War. In 2011 The Chairman of the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association Eric Wilson accompanied Professor Joan Beaumont and photographer/graphics specialist Kim McKenzie of the Australian National University on a tour to identify significant sites and places of interest along the Burma Thailand Railway. The completed website gives all Australians the opportunity to explore and learn about the Australian experience at Hellfire Pass. It will allow them to compare what it is like today to how the prisoners experienced it almost 70 years ago. The website uses modern footage as well as historical photographs and GPS referencing to form a ‘virtual tour’ that will include the current walking trail and old camp sites located within the vicinity of Hellfire Pass. Historian, Professor Joan Beaumont of the ANU College of Arts & Social Sciences has said, “The site will provide a wealth of information about the prisoners who lived and died on the pass, with oral histories, eye witness accounts and personal profiles including that of renowned doctor Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop.” The Australian Government supported this initiative with $91,000 in funding. The website will become the first in a series of websites highlighting significant places for Australians along the Thai-Burma Railway. The ‘virtual tour’ complements the already available Hellfire Pass online audio guide. developed by the Office of Australian War Graves and available on the DVA website www.dva.gov.au/audioguides.htm. It also complements the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association website BTRMA.org.au.. It is recommended that interested people, particularly those intending to embark on Quiet Lion Tours, to look at The Hellfire Pass Commemoration Site There are many links on the site.

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