ChungKai War Cemetery

Chung Kai War Cemetery

I’m not sure why I’m starting with the Chungkai War Cemetery over the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery which you’ll see next week.  Perhaps it was the quiet calmness void of tourists or the more lush environment which allowed the shrubs and plants to grow larger and more colorful.  Mr. Rod Beattie who is the caretaker for the Commonwealth managed war cemeteries recommended we make the effort to see the Chungkai War Cemetery and provided us exact directions.  A great recommendation!

Chung Kai War Cemetery

During the construction of the Burma-Siam railway it is estimated that nearly 100,000 civilians and 13,000 prisoners of war died and were buried along its course outside the work camps.  Later the remains of Allied prisoners were moved to three cemeteries, Kanchanaburi and Chungkai in Thailand, and Thanbyuszayat in Burma now known as Myanmar.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

Chungkai was an actual work camp and had a hospital and church built by the prisoners.  The prisoners themselves started Chungkai War Cemetery which mostly contains the remains of the men who died at the hospital.  1427 Commonwealth and 314 Dutch prisoners of war are buried here.  1741 Sailors, Soldiers and Airmen.  1691 are marked with names, rank and service.  50 sets of remains have yet to be identified.  The Americans repatriated the remains of their men.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

I’ve been almost everywhere in Thailand and I’ve never seen a more precise and carefully cared for piece of land.  I remember sitting outside the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery before going inside and thinking out loud said “there is no way the Thais are responsible for the this cemetery.”  There was something about the precision and feeling that just wasn’t Thai.  The attention to detail.  I was right.  The Commonwealth War Graves Commission is responsible and Mr. Rod Beattie is the manager/caretaker.  I used to think the Queen Sirikit Botanical Gardens in Chiang Mai were the most beautiful and well maintained grounds in Thailand.  Now I know they are not.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

Each row is precision lined, each grave marker inscribed and polished.  Each marker is flanked by colorful and attractive live flowers and shrubs, each carefully pruned and sized.  The grass is perfect, better than the best greens in Thailand.  Old trees are splendid in size and shape.  Walking into the cemetery the temperature significantly decreases as the flora cradles you in comfort.  I’m not sure it’s possible to build a more fitting resting place.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

I’ve already mentioned I was very sick and weak on this trip, but something about these grounds comforted me.  As my mates walked and had a look around I took a seat near the top of the rows of markers and took in all that I could while I rested.  From this low perspective I made a few captures that those standing wouldn’t see.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

Most grave markers are inscribed with the name, rank, and service of the fallen.  Some have personal inscriptions I’d guess were placed at the request of family members.  An ongoing challenge from any war is identifying unmarked remains.  Chungkai is no exception and each marker which designates an unknown is inscribed with “A Soldier of the 1939-1945 War.  Known Unto God.”  Fitting.  Mr. Rod Beattie the caretaker of the Commonwealth Cemeteries and Owner/Director of the Death Railway Museum has been responsible for identifying unknown remains and his efforts continue today.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

Looking back at the entrance you can get a feel for the beauty of the cemetery and the painstakingly careful guardianship.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

Chung Kai War Cemetery

Despite feeling terrible I tried my best to capture not only the details and perfection, but the design and feeling.  I know I could never do this place justice, but I plan on returning as often as necessary until I feel satisfied I did my very best.  How could I not?

Chung Kai War Cemetery

This tree struck me as particularly beautiful.  Flowers blooming in the upper canopy, and the matching fallen petals on the ground.  Framed by a blue sky and green grass it stood out in a way only something made by nature can.

Chung Kai War Cemetery

At the very end of the cemetery, furthest from the entrance, is this large cross.  When the sun strikes it just so the small crosses on the markers also glow.