In the Second World War, the occupying Japanese forced Allied POWs to build a railway through Thailand. Conditions were horrific, and one area in particular was dubbed with the name of the underworld itself. Anna Power had a chance to explore the nightmare of Hellfire Pass.
Hellfire Pass is aptly named. Walking along the dusty trail in the blazing heat provides a real glimpse into how hard life must have been for the poor Allied prisoners of war as they were to set to work as forced labour building the Death Railway. At the same time, the present day serenity of the four kilometre track, makes it difficult to properly appreciate just how harsh and brutal the conditions really were.
Hellfire Pass was the largest rock cutting across the Death Railway line. The Allied Prisoners were forced to work 18 hour days by their Japanese Guards.
The nickname derives because the sight of emaciated prisoners working hard at night by torchlight coupled with the sound of hammering noises created an eerie scene of Hell.
In the six weeks it took to make the cutting, no fewer than 69 men were beaten to death by the guards, although many also died from dysentary, exhaustion, cholera and starvation.
There are a total of nine bridges along the walking trail. Although rocky in places (wear sensible shoes), there are handrails and steps along the way providing assistance.
There is a Museum at the start of the trail, which I recommend viewing as it is full with additional information and artifacts about the Railway line. They also provide you with a free audio recording to listen to whilst walking along the trail. It is hard not to shiver even in the blazing heat, listening to former prisoners share their memories, bringing to life the atrocities and cruelty they suffered. Even the coldest heart would surely be warmed hearing soldiers recall they would pray to catch cholera as it would mean they could spend time in the infirmary in a real bed.
There is no fee to visit the Museum, but donations are gratefully accepted.