Roy Cornford - Construction of the Burma-Thailand Railway

Running time
2 min 15 sec
Date made

Department of Veterans' Affairs


Well, all we knew, we were building the railway line so that they could transport the Japanese from Burma to Thailand and all those places up there. And while we were working there we used to see the Japanese troops coming down by truck and going past our camps. And that was what we were told, we were building the railway for.

And as I said, we lobbed there in the dry season, and the other end of the railway line was started up in Thailand and they worked towards down the Burma end, and they lobbed there in the wet season and of course they got struck with cholera and all those diseases that they couldn't get prepared for and they had terrible numbers of deaths.

Well, when we first started, we were just digging the soil, then eventually we were lying the sleepers and then the lines. But as we were losing that many men dying, there wasn't enough to carry the sleepers, so they brought coolies up and the coolies used to carry the sleepers and lay the sleepers, and we used to lay the lines. Well you went to work to lay the lines in daylight and you had to lay so many lines a day. Well, near the end of the line it took them that long to get the railway lines up to you, you mightn't get home til one or two o'clock in the morning, which you'd be still back out there going at six o'clock in the morning again.

Didn't matter how you were. You just sat there in the rain, of course it was raining, it was the wet season then, and you just sat there in the rain. Sometimes some of the men would be that sick, they would let four or five of them go back to camp, or something like that. But they kept most of you there until you laid the lines. But the Jap guards had to sit there with you in the rain too and of course they didn't think too much of it.

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