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 2002
The DRA trip to Thailand (Burma-Thailand Railway) was conducted over the period 6 to 15 November. 23 people travelled.


The tour was organised and run by Peter Winstanley with great expertise. He is obviously so involved and interested in the subject that he cannot help but infect participants with his enthusiasm. This enthusiasm and interest was reinforced by the company of John Parkes, an ex- POW (and his delightful wife Vera) for the whole trip; Rod Beattie from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission at the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery, his property on the site of the Hintock River Camp, at a preview of the Kanchanaburi Visitors Centre (a work in progress) and at a social occasion when he was accompanied by his wife and daughters; and Bill Slape at the Hellfire Pass Memorial Museum. These gentlemen bought the overall picture into focus.


There was something for everyone:

  • History and Culture: exquisite shrines, the ancient capitol of Ayutthaya, the Prasat Muang Singh walled settlement and cultural dancing, to name but a few;
  • Aussie ingenuity and workmanship at the Khao Laem Dam, (SMAC);
  • Shopping in busy Bangkok, or a bit of bartering at wayside stalls;
  • Food, and more food;
  • A train ride over the Wampo viaduct; (some people actually sat on the steps of the train and took photos !)
  • Lazing around the resort swimming pool, (Home Phu Toey);
  • Cruising on the Chao Phraya River in Bangkok, and a raft ride on the Kwai Noi river to our home base at Home Phu Toey in Kanchanaburi;
  • An elephant ride at Wampo and;
  • Museum visits at Hellfire Pass, The Jeath, and at Home Phu Toey.


The Highlight?

  • Maybe it was our interaction with Rod Beattie. His enthusiasm and drive are beyond belief, as is his knowledge of the Railway and those involved in its construction;
  • The beautiful Home Phu Toey Resort which was our homebase in Kanchanaburi;
  • The hospitality of our host, Khun Kanit Wanachote who went out of his way to make us welcome;
  • The Remembrance Day Service;
  • The bonding and friendship within the group;
  • The Sound and Light Show at the Home Phu Toey, and the tour of the Remembrance Park (to Weary Dunlop) in the dark, with spotlighted features, a thrilling experience;
  • Or was it the last night at the Home Phu Toey?


The poignant Remembrance Day service at Hellfire Pass involved all of the group, including Garnett Buckley with his cornet sounding out over the quiet cutting and surrounding jungle. At the service we welcomed a British ex- POW (Frank) on his first visit to the area of his previous incarceration, while above us a group of young tourists watched in silence at our dedication to those who paid the supreme sacrifice. After the service they joined us to meet and take photos of John and Frank, the two POW’s. They also photographed the three beautiful floral tributes which were placed on the small memorial in the Pass and the poppies placed on the remnants of the line itself by each member of our group.

The last night at the Home Phu Toey resort when our host Khun Kanit asked us to supply a piece of hair and toenail to place on the Loy Krathong so that our troubles would be swept away by the river. The ceremony is actually on 19 November, so we were a little early. We were taken to the riverbank, where candles on bamboo poles lighted the way. On a raised terrace were tables and chairs set for our meal, and on the riverbank were the Australian and Thai flags, with a stage area and spotlights. Our host told us that it was on this spot that he first met Weary Dunlop in 1985 and it was also the place where a portion of his ashes were set onto the Kwai Noi River for his last journey in Thailand. We were the first people to be invited to share this sacred site with Khun Kanit Wanachote. After a beautiful meal and dancing by his staff our Loy Krathong was also set onto the River Kwai Noi. As the river rushes to the sea, it gives no hint to the horrors it saw during the building of the Railway of Death, and the part it played .

Why don’t you go in 2003 and experience some of the fun, comradeship, awe inspiring jungle and landforms, friendly locals, and above all learn more of the history of our Service personnel, and others involved in the construction of Railway of Death.


Joan Sewell



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