The Kwai River Bridge is neither an ancient bridge nor unique in shape, but it attracts thousands of visitors more than any other Thai attraction. In the 1950s, the war epic "The Bridge on the River Kwai," directed by the famous British director David Lean, exposed the atrocities of Japanese militarism during World War II, won several Oscar awards and made the Kwai River Bridge in Kanchanaburi worldwide famous.
During the Japanese occupation of Thailand, the Allied prisoners of war were forced to build a railway linking Burma and Siam. This railway was completed after sacrificing countless precious lives, called the "Death Railway." The Kwai River Bridge is the throat of the "Death Railway."
In 1945, the Kwai River Bridge was the target of air raids; however, the bridge has survived and is still in use. There is a light and sound show each year on 28 November to commemorate the tragic history. Let's learn more about the design and size of this bridge.
Description of the Kwai River Bridge Size
The Kwai River Bridge, located in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, was originally a wooden bridge, which was destroyed by plane bombings several times. The iconic bridge over the River Kwai is made from a semicircular steel structure. After the reconstruction, two square iron frames were added to the arc iron frames on both sides of the original bridge. You only need about 10 minutes to walk the entire Kwai River Bridge, which shows that the bridge is not known for its size.
Standing on the bridge and watching the beautiful River Kwai flowing quietly under the sunset, it is hard to imagine the tragic stories that happened here. On the southern section of the bridge is the Japanese War Memorial; three kilometers away is the Kanchanaburi Soldier Cemetery, the largest cemetery for the martyred soldiers of the Allied Forces, where the bones of nearly 7,000 sergeants are buried.
Dimensions of the Kwai River Bridge
A 2-span steel bridge replaced the original wooden bridge after World War II. The total length of the bridge is precisely 323 meters. At 27 meters in height, the present bridge has rebuilt two of its central spans. The original parts of the bridge are now displayed in the War Museum.
History of the Death Railway
In June 1942, in order to alleviate the shortage of sea supply lines and connect the land supply lines in Southeast Asia, the Japanese army forcibly recruited more than 60,000 Allied prisoners of war and more than 300,000 Southeast Asian laborers to build a 415-kilometer-long railway in the rolling mountains along the Thai-Burma border. The Kwai River Bridge was part of the meter-gauge railway that ran 250 miles from Ban Pong, Thailand, to Thanbyuzayat, Burma, and is now known as the Death Railway.
The project started in Myanmar and Thailand at the same time. It was originally planned to be completed in 7 years. However, under the severe coercion of the Japanese army, it was completed in only 17 months. Both sides of the River Kwai are covered with dense forests and crisscrossing rivers, which are hotbeds for the breeding and epidemic of plagues. Coupled with the lack of materials and harsh conditions, about 106,000 people died here. This railway is also called the "Death Railway."
The Kwai River Bridge has become the most famous scenic spot in Kanchanaburi. There are many cafes, restaurants, and shops around the river today. The "Death Railway" Museum and the Thailand-Myanmar Railway Research Center are next to the Allied Cemetery. About 75,000 people come to Kanchanaburi to visit this museum every year, including many prisoners of war and their descendants. The existence of this bridge has been a reminder never to forget that history. Those soldiers buried in the cemetery died for justice and deserved to be remembered.