Member Attends ANZAC Day Service
Rotarian Martin Harrison, who is also a retired Squadron Leader in the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve (Training) Branch, travelled to Kanchahanburi on 25th April 2019, to attend the annual ANZAC Day services.
The day began with ‘reveille’ at 0100h in order to catch the minibus to Hellfire Pass, which is the name of a railway cutting on the former Burma Railway "Death Railway" to the north of Kanchanaburi, which was built with forced labour during the Second World War, in part by Allied prisoners of war. The pass is noted for the harsh conditions and heavy loss of life suffered by its labourers during construction. Hellfire Pass is so called because the sight of emaciated prisoners labouring at night by torchlight was said to resemble a scene from Hell!
The moving dawn service began at 0530h and straddled the rising sun, with the increasing bird song and upwards of 1000 people gathered in the gloom with candles adding a certain poignancy to the proceedings.
Among the many VIPs present were ex Japanese Prisoner of War Harold Martin aged 102, who had worked on the Burma Railway during World War II. His Excellency Allan McKinnon, Australian Ambassador to Thailand, His Excellency Taha Macpherson, New Zealand Ambassador to Thailand, Her Excellency Ms Evren Dagdelen Akgun, Turkish Ambassador to Thailand, Air Marshal Leo Davies, Chief of the Royal Australian Air Force, who Martin later had the privilege of meeting, and many senior Thai Army, Air Force and Police Officers.
Wreaths were laid at the cenotaph, Harold Martin read the exhortation, the Last Post was played, and a lone piper played the lament.  Following the long, hot walk back up the pass there followed a gunshot breakfast and a ration of milk and rum, with thoughts being spared for the many Allied POWs who were forced to work and died under the terrible conditions.
Following the journey back to Kanchanaburi, a second service took place at 1100h in the Commonwealth War Grave Cemetery in the city.  More wreaths were laid and following this there was time for people to socialise in the plot adjacent to the cemetery, the temperature rising to about 43o during the morning.  Martin also met Lt Cdr Bruce Bird, a retired Australian Lieutenant Commander and PP of RC Marina City, Singapore, and hopes to maintain contact.
Following the formalities, many of the bars in town were filled with ‘old soldiers’ enjoying an ‘après parade’, and being entertained by a Pipe Band resplendent in their kilts.
A very moving occasion and one that is well worth undertaking again in the future.