Research & Articles by Lt. Col. Peter Winstanley OAM RFD (Retired), JP
Research, Interviews and Articles about the Prisoners Of War of the Japanese who built the Burma to Thailand railway during world war two. Focusing on the doctors and medical staff among the prisoners. Also organised trips to Thailand twice a year.
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REMEMBRANCE DAY, HELLFIRE PASS, THAILAND 2007

by Kirsty Hastie Smith
at Hellfire Pass, Thailand

The following article was written by Kirsty Hastie Smith who is a member of The British Club, Pipe Band based in Bangkok.  The band participated in the Remembrance Day Service in Hellfire Pass, Thailand on 11 November 2007. 
Kirsty is from Edinburgh, Scotland and she works in the Garden International School, Bangkok.  Kirsty comes from a family where her father, 2 sisters and brother all played the pipes.  Kirsty is also an accomplished Scottish Highland Dancer.

 

On Sunday 11 November 2007 I had an amazing experience and have written about it to go in my old school magazine.   Here is the article.  I thought others may like to read about it too.  I have been living in Bangkok for three years now and ever since I arrived I have been a member of the pipe band.

 

It was originally called The Bangkok Thistle Pipe Band, but recently we became The British Club Pipe Band Bangkok.   We were very honoured this year to be invited by the Defence Reserves Association of Australia to play at the Remembrance Day service at Hellfire Pass, the location near Kanchanaburi and the Bridge over the River Kwai, of the Thailand Burma Railway, or better known as the Death Railway.   The Association had brought over 50 people (most from Western Australia) who had connections with the Railway, whether it be a father, husband or friend who had been captured as a prisoner of war and treated so cruelly by the Japanese, living under the most appalling conditions, which many of them succumbed to.

 

The group, plus tourists who were lucky enough to be strolling in the area, assembled in the quiet, leafy pass which had been created by the sweat and blood of the POWs bare hands.  Evidence is still all around of their presence, whether it be rivets in the rocks, used to put explosives down to blast away the path to put the railway line down, to the sleepers still embedded in the ground.  It was a beautifully calm Sunday with yellow butterflies dancing around and blue dragonflies darting fearlessly between the crowd. 

The pipe band played 'Scotland the Brave' and 'Rowan Tree' up to the war memorial.  Many prayers and speeches of remembrance were said by members of the Australian Embassy, the Australian Navy, people with POW connections and, most impressively, by an 87 year old POW who comes back year after year to revisit the place where he must have lost so many friends and have so many horrific memories.    After the 'Last Post' there was the two minute silence. As we stood there remembering, the trees swayed in the breeze and just in those minutes a torrent of leaves and flowers showered down from above.  After this extraordinary experience we played the lament 'Flowers of the Forest' at which many people were left teary eyed.    To liven up the moment we then played the regimental march of the Black Watch, 'Highland Laddie.'   'Amazing Grace' then filled the pass and the acoustics were incredible due to the high rock faces either side of us.   To finish off the ceremony, we took out our trump card and surprised them all by marching off down the railway track playing 'Waltzing Matilda'.  It was a truly moving experience which we all felt very honoured to be part of, especially as this was the first time a pipe band had played in this poignant setting for Remembrance Day.”

Kirsty Hastie Smith

I am grateful that Kirsty has provided copy of the article for publication on the world wide web Lt Col Peter Winstanley - Tour Leader www.pows-of-japan.net

   
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