Irene Smith of Albany, Western Australia writes:
I have just returned from a most amazing educational and inspirational twelve day trip to Thailand on the Quiet Lion Tour, which was established by exPOWs and their families. The “Quiet Lion” is the nickname of Sir Edward “Weary” Dunlop, who from 1942 to 1945, together with his medical colleagues, gave devoted service to thousands of sick and dying prisoners-of-war and Asian labourers who were forced to construct and maintain the Burma-Thailand Railway.
Equally, I was privileged to be on and share the experience of the tour with Amity Village Resident, Neil MacPherson OAM. Albany was certainly waving the flag on Anzac day at the dawn service at Hellfire Pass, and Anzac ceremony at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, as 99 year old Harold Martin from Albany, also an ex-POW was at the service. Only two ex-POW were able to come to this years’ service: Neil gave the Anzac address and Harold gave the Ode.
Early morning on 15th April 2016, Richard (my partner), Neil and his son Alan, and I, together with others coming on the tour, flew off to Bangkok. The tour group consisted of 73 people: 30 of these were secondary school students from various schools or sponsored from RSL groups throughout mainly WA, and many of the 43 adults were retracing the steps of their fathers, who had been POWs on the railway. The tour encourages students to partake – as they are the generation who will pass on the history and keep alive the memory of the thousands who worked on the atrocious conditions of the railway.
The first two days were a taste of Thai culture – which included visits to the Royal Summer Palace at Bang Pa-in, the ancient capital Ayutthaya, cruise down the Chaoy Phraya River, the floating markets, Teak factory and palm sugar factory. Action filled enjoyable days – and time to acclimatise to the 41 degree humid days.
Our two tour buses then headed out into the beautiful Thai countryside – retracing the steps of the WWII POWs. From Nong Pladuk the railway traversed the flat plain to Kanchanaburi where it crossed the Mae Klaung River, then followed the course of the Kwae Noi River, then through Namtok and Saiyok National Park. We did not follow further, though of course the railway goes on through Three Pagoda Pass through to Thanbyuzayat in Burma.
Our home for six days was at the very picturesque jungle resort of Home Phu Toey – which had a brilliant, and much appreciated swimming pool. Home Phu Toey is about 100kms from Kanchanaburi, and about 15 minutes from the Hellfire Pass. We visited the sites of many of the railway camps.
My most profound experience was walking, in 41 degrees, the 4.5km Burma Railway Heritage Trail from Hintok Road, through Hintok Cutting then Hellfire Cutting on to the Hellfire Pass Museum. Even though I have read the books, watched the films – this walk hit me so emotionally as to the reality of what those incredible men endured – the bridges, the embankments, the undulating landscape, the huge cuttings through solid rock with tap and hammer, the conditions, the heat, the expectations of 18 hour days, with only a handful of rice, minimum clothes, crude tools, cruel taskmasters. 415km of railway built by prisoners of war and Asian labourers in 18 months.
And it also made me so proud to be an Australian – understanding that some of the greatest attributes our Aussie POWs had was three things: their Mateship, their sense of Humour, and their rural backgrounds, or outdoor way of life. I heard so many stories – from Neil, Harold and the sons of other POWs – and all of them, despite the adversities and atrocities of the time, shine with wonderful examples of humanity, compassion and mateship.
Every day was packed with new experiences, including watching the Thailand Tigers play football (AFF Asia) against the Malaysian Warriors – four 15min quarter in 41degrees, at Kanchanaburi – an annual football match played in memory of the POW footie matches.
ANZAC day was the finale of this awesome tour – and it will be an ANZAC DAY I will never forget. Etched in my psych now is being in Hellfire Pass as dawn gently breaks, the only sound being the birds calling in the new day, and sensing in the surrounding bamboo jungle, the spirit of all those who died and worked the line.
Lest We Forget. We will remember them.
Venetia Smith of Esperance
What an amazing 12days I have had. I’m so proud of being a part of the 2016 Quiet Lion Tour. Ian, David and the world war 2 men and families have changed my life. I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Ian if I can help you in anyway please let me know.
I’m going to take my kids on the tour. I’m a single mum and I think this will wake them up to the hardships on the railway in Thailand during the war. I have fell in love with Thailand and the people. So can you email my when you are starting 2017 tour please. Thank you so much Ian.
QUIET LION TOUR 2015
Earlier in April this year, I was fortunate enough to have the
opportunity to participate in the Thai- Burma Quiet Lion Tour
commemorating the Thai-Burma railway construction in Thailand.
I realise now, that prior to the tour, my knowledge and understanding
of the Thai-Burma Railway was very limited. I was unaware of the
brutalities and severe living and working conditions that the Prisoners
of War had to endure.
We were fortunate enough this year to have an ex-POW, Neil
MacPherson, to accompany us on our trip. Neil travelled with us to
Thailand and shared stories and information about his experiences of
working on the railway and what he endured being a prisoner of war.
One of the most memorable parts of the trip for me was the Anzac day
celebrations. The day started early with the Dawn Service at Hellfire
Pass, this was truly a humbling experience as the ceremony took place
on the actual railway.
After a quick breakfast back at our Home Phu
Toey accommodation, we made our way to the Wreath Laying
ceremony at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. I felt honored to be
given the privilege of laying a wreath. It was an inspiration to hear Neil
deliver the POW address and David Piesse deliver the ode of
The tour endeavors “to perpetuate the memory of the privations and
sacrifices of Australian and Allied prisoners of war and the selfless
dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the
Burma Thailand Railway by informing current and future generations
through all forms of education”.
I believe the Quiet Lion tour achieves these objectives and much more.
Informing current and future generations about Australia’s history and
in particular, that of the Thai-Burma Railway is imperative to Australia’s
Having the privilege of learning first-hand about this significant event in
history and in particular the legend of Sir Weary Dunlop has provided
me with much insight into the poor living conditions and lack of health
care that was on offer. I Endeavour to pass on what I have learnt to the
younger generation, especially the story of Sir Weary Dunlop as I
believe it is important that young Australians are provided with a role
model of such selflessness, compassion, courage and devotion to duty.
It was special to hear David share stories about his father, Ron Piesse
and the experiences he had on the Railway. When visiting Kanchanaburi
War Cemetery, David kindly showed me where soldiers from Wagin
were buried. The young age of these soldiers is something that
continues to resonate with me.
By visiting the Thai Burma railway I have gained a greater
understanding and appreciation of this significant event in our history. I
hope to raise awareness to fellow peers and the younger generation of
the sacrifices and bravery our soldiers demonstrated on the Thai-
I believe it is very important for young Australians,
including myself, to be educated about Australian history and
understand how fortunate we are to be living in this great country,
appreciating the sacrifices made before us to make this possible.
I feel extremely privileged and fortunate to have been a part of the
2015 Quiet Lion Tour. The values displayed by the Australian Prisoners
of War including courage, strength, leadership and bravery are all
values which I hope to continually develop and one day possess.
I would like to sincerely thank Ian Holding and in particular David for
their wealth of knowledge and passion they shared with us all on the
tour. They really helped us gain an understanding and appreciation of
the significance of the Thai-Burma Railway. David, thank you for taking
the extra time to explain the many stories and experiences to me, your
knowledge and passion for the Thai Burma railway really is amazing.
Finally I would like say a big Thank you to all of you, the Wagin Lions
Club, for providing me with this opportunity; I appreciate just how lucky
I am. Hopefully you are in a position to continue this tradition, as it is a
very valuable educational and moving experience.
QUIET LION TOUR 2015
My father was a POW at Hellfire Pass in Thailand in the Second World War. I have wanted to go and see for myself the conditions that he and so many others had endured.
I was extremely lucky to find “The Quiet Lions Tour”. The people who organize the tour only arrange this once a year for Anzac Day.
The wonderful presence of Neil MacPherson, who is one of the remaining ex-POW’s made this journey all the more special. It was a privilege and an honour to be travelling with someone who could tell his story first hand.
The co-ordinator’s Ian Holding, David Piesse and Krishna Vanderweide also had POW family connections with The Burma Railway. They help the people on tour to connect with their family members that were either lost during the war or who had been a POW. They went out of their way to accommodate any request. They understood how you felt. They were on call 24/7 for any issue that may arise. They put this tour together with a labor of love and everything they did showed just that. This in turn, made it easier for all of us on tour to grieve, to learn and to understand what our loved one suffered.
How our Grandfather’s, Father’s, Brother’s and Uncle’s ever came home, I will never understand. I wish all the tour members, good luck in their journey.
Having the high school students on the tour gave them a greater understanding of what happened to our family members. They are the hope for the future and by giving them this understanding, god willing; it may stop it from happening again.
The high school students were very respectful of the other tour member’s situation and also gave great support. There was no THEY or WE, we all became one unit.
Thank you David for your wonderful stories. You bought an understanding we would not have gotten with other tours. You told stories at every stop along the Burma Thailand Railway which made us more aware of what it was like to be there as a POW.
Thank you Ian, for your support to all of us, and the hard work you put into the tours. The personal talks we had relating to our father’s who happened to be in the same battalion were emotional but were part of the journey. You gave encouragement when needed which was gratefully accepted.
Thank you Krishna, you worked so hard behind the scene’s to make sure the tour ran smoothly. You were there also to give a shoulder to cry on, a hug if needed and to mother each and everyone of us who required some TLC.
To Craig McKie, a big thank-you for your support throughout the tour. Your generosity was very much appreciated and I was honoured you wanted to share my journey. Having you stand in for my father’s friend Barney when we laid my Dad’s (John Curtin) wreath just made it all the more special. I could not have asked for more.
Finally to Neil, it was a true honour to be on the tour with you. You bought many memories of my father to the forefront and helped me to mourn my loss for him. You were an inspiration to all of us. Even when you were tired and exhausted you gave your time to speak and answer questions to anyone who wanted to have a moment with you. God willing we will see you again next year.
I cannot recommend this tour highly enough. The tour was organised so you had a great mixture of personal time and time learning about the Burma Railway and the hardships endured by our loved ones.
Congratulations, you have organised one of the best tours for Anzac Day and I can only recommend it highly.
A JOB WELL DONE GUYS
Mr Eric Wilson APM OAM
Chairman: Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association.
Re Quiet Lion Tour 2015
Dear Eric, I want to pass on to you what a great job David, Ian and Krishna did on the 2015 Quiet Lion Tour to Thailand. All three looked after tour participants in an exemplary manner, with each individual receiving courteous and personal attention at all times.
The Quiet Lion Tour had a great balance between the Burma Thailand Railway, historical aspects of Thailand and Thai culture. Both my son and I thought this balance enhanced the tour greatly. Of course, having tour leaders who had such a great depth of knowledge about the Burma Thailand Railway itself, and of the various P.O.W. camps along the line, gave everyone on the tour a wonderful learning experience. On that account both David Piesse and Ian Holding are to be congratulated. Naturally, the tour highlight of Anzac Day with ex-P.O.W Neil MacPherson in attendance, lived up to all expectations as a wonderful and moving occasion.
As a legatee and son of a Japanese P.O.W. survivor, an additional benefit for me was being able to share the tour with others who had fathers who had also been a P.O.W. All in all, thanks to the Burma Thailand Railway Memorial Association, my son and I both had a wonderful trip.
The following comment hardly does justice to what the Quiet Lion Tour really meant to me but it is difficult to put into words.
Thank you for an amazing experience which has taken some time to fully process and which turned out to be so much more than I ever expected. For Andrew and me this was a real journey of discovery back to a moment in time which had such an impact on so many people and gave me a real insight into the nightmare that F Force had to endure.
With all the information I had gathered I thought I knew what to expect but the reality was so much more – more of everything, the long, long distances, the oppressive, sweltering heat, seeing the evidence of the exhausting hard work at Chungkai and on the walk to Hellfire Pass, the isolation of the Songkurai Camps, the sadness of the cemeteries full of so many lost mates!
It was such an honour to be in the company of Wally Holding, Neil MacPherson and Snow Fairclough. To hear their stories made it all so much more real and meeting the other families of members of F Force was very special.
The Anzac Day Dawn service was moving and overwhelming and seeing my son Andrew lay a wreath for my Dad’s Unit, the Ammunition Sub Park, at Kanchanaburi is a treasured memory.
Thanks once again for an experience which I hope continues for a long time.
Hello Eric and Joyce
Looking back now, several months since the Quiet Lion Tour 2013, our feelings of deepest appreciation toward the organisers of this event, for making it such a truly memorable occasion, have by no means diminished.
We still remember with great clarity and vividness the numerous outings and events specifically planned to increase our knowledge and understanding of this historic Railway. And, undoubtedly, the pinnacle of these endeavours would have to be the celebration of Anzac Day 2013 at the inspiring Hellfire Pass Dawn Service, and at the moving service at Kanchanaburi War Cemetery; both poignant and unforgettable; we shall never forget them.
Through the painstaking efforts of the BTRMA Committee , plus the presence of three generous ex-POWs and their supportive families, we were able to learn at first hand the significance and hardship of this moving wartime event. We are deeply indebted to all their amazing efforts, and to the way in which we were helped to trace the life of an uncle who died on the Railway in 1943.
Our heartfelt and enduring thanks to the BRTMA and the Quiet Lion Tour.
Thanks again for all your efforts Eric,
Peter and Jenny Caddy
The 2013 Quiet Lion tour was a very enjoyable experience for the students and staff of Kununurra High School. The tour was well organised and the itinerary adjusted for the needs of juniors. I think that the students found the train ride most enjoyable. It also gave them a sense of reality as they could see and experience the evidence. Also having the interactions with the POWS seemed to have the biggest impact.
Another aspect which I personally found enlightening was the Buddhist Ceremony. This really highlighted the different cultures and gave the students some exposure to different ways of life. The cultural performance at the end out the tour was also very impressive.
There was a good variety between experience and exposure to the Thai culture and the serious nature of the experience of POWS.
EMMA LUTZ – KUNUNURRA HIGH SCHOOL WESTERN AUSTRALIA
FROM DAVID VANCE – QUEENSLAND.
I want to say how much I and my family enjoyed the 2013 Quiet Lion tour. It exceeded my expectations in many ways. I think I can speak for all my family in saying that they all enjoyed the tour. It was a priceless time for them. More importantly they learned a heck of a lot from it, particularly about what the POWs experienced. It was such a joy for me to see and hear what my sons and nephews were saying about what they’d seen and how it helped them look at their Grandfather from a new perspective.
It was great meeting other people who had relatives who were POWs and, of course, the presence of three of the ex POWs was wonderful – a real highlight. The information we were given, particularly the knowledge that you passed on to us, was great and the places we were taken were very interesting. Quite a few of my family are talking about wanting to go back again.
Thanks a lot for fitting in the Three Pagodas Pass day for us and the unique experience of visiting the camp sites at Shimo Sonkurai, Sonkurai and Kami Sonkurai. Also thanks for all your interesting commentaries and thoughts on the POW experience.
Best wishes, Dave Vance.
From Jenny Cameron.
Hey! thanks for sending that photo and yes I do like it, it reminds me of a very special occasion. I had a wonderful time on the tour I think about it every day.
You guys deserve a medal for all that you do and for all that you put up with. Soldier on and keep up the good work, you might at times think it’s all too hard, but what your doing is a great thing and the people that join this tour will appreciated it for a long time to come, as I will. I have some lovely memories.
I loved Neil MacPherson’s Anzac Day Address it felt like he was talking directly to me as he talked about the Burma end. One thing for sure is I’ll never forget the many laughs I had with Snow Fairclough, what a character he is. You may not remember telling me that my Grandfather might have a Memorial plaque at Labuan in Borneo so since I have been home my research has continued and it turns out that John Henderson Forbes VX14293 is on panel 23 so I guess next year I’ll be off to Borneo for Anzac Day but I’ll also be thinking of you all on the railway.
So thank you very much for all the work you have done to make sure the story lives on.
Eric your love and passion shines through on this tour as does David Piesse’s, and Joyce Wilson is the best back up person ever
Dear Eric & Joyce.
What an amazing experience! Thank you for having me on the Quiet Lion Tour. It was such an honour to be with such a wonderful group of people, to go to the places we went, not to mention the culture shock! You are such a great speaker and leader Eric, with your wealth of knowledge and passion. You seemed to always paint a picture which was easy to see, particularly with camp sites etc which weren’t anything like they used to be.
I enjoyed everything about the tour, even though so much was sad but it was fun too. Hearing all the young people was a lovely experience and I hope they pass it on. My only regret was that I didn’t go two years ago when Mr Haskell was there; he was in so much of it.
Thank you both for the wonderful job you did – you are champions too!
All the best and thanks again.
Yes, once again you have completed another wonderful tour full of interesting, serious, fun, and exciting times for all of those who went on this year’s tour. A credit to you and your organisation. On behalf of our students I thank you sincerely.
Roma Parker. Mingenew and Three Springs/Carnamah Students.
My thanks for a wonderful and memorable Quiet Lion Tour 2011.
There were many highlights, and I’m hard-pressed to pick just a handful. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to chat with Neil McPherson, visiting the BTRMA museum and the Hellfire Pass museum, the walk along the rail trace to Konyu Cutting in company with David Piesse, the presentation of ‘Wind Beneath my Wings’ with the Esperance contingent, and – of course! – the concert.
The entire tour to me was a powerful mixture of growing my personal understanding of this profound episode in our contemporary history – and the experience of being a part of a group of individuals who were doing the same: making their own journey, while at the same time joining together to share in that of everyone else.
Your leadership of the group was first-class: it’s no easy feat to take a group of 80-odd delegates – of all different ages and backgrounds – into country which was foreign to most, and keep the focus and energy of the entire contingent sharp. Well done!
My sincere thanks and congratulations for a job well done.
Paul Wennegal. Esperance.
We have thought of you and Joyce a lot since we returned home. Home Phu Toey, such an inspiring and mentally affirming place.
We have thought a lot about Bill Haskell. He will be missed by all who knew him.
He touched so many in various ways, and even though we only had brief contact with him in the last few weeks of his life we feel privileged to have felt his generosity, steadfastness and resilience.
We shall always remember him.
Jenny and Peter Caddy
We can’t begin to thank you enough for the wonderful tour.
The stories we heard, the ones we shared, the friendships we made, it was just amazing and we can’t praise the tour enough.
It was lifechanging for Dad and I and we feel so privileged.
Thank you so much, the memories will remain with us forever.
I wish to convey my thanks to you and Joyce for all the work you put in to make the Quiet Lion Tour such a wonderful success for us. We all thought it was fabulous.
Hello Eric and Joyce,
What an awesome job you did for all of us on Quiet Lion 2011. For me it was an amazing experience, an adventure and a huge lesson on the price the POWs paid. I cannot thank you enough for the great work you are doing.
Thank you again for a wonderful job. I’ll long remember the journey we shared and thanks too for your friendship and good company.
From Ron and Bronwen Walker.
The 2012 Quiet Lion Tour was for us something special and the memories will stay with us for a long time. Thanks for all the arrangements and your hard work and thanks also to Joy and the committee.
Ron & Bronwen Walker,
Thank you for organizing the Quiet Lion Tour 2012. It was a great experience I will never forget.
It has changed my view of our history. The most memorable moments were the Dawn Service at Hellfire Pass and the Wreath Laying ceremony at the Kanchanaburi Cemetery.
Ebano Springs, Mingenew, WA.