Royal British Legion Thailand observes ANZAC Day in Kanchanaburi

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As a branch, the Royal British Legion Thailand often has members visiting the River Kwai. However, there is one weekend a year when our members travel from all over Thailand to be there and this is Anzac Day, the 25th April. This year, on the 23rd of April, the ‘Advance Party’, consisting of the secretary, Bert Elson BEM and standard bearer, Richard Holmes, went up early. Bert essentially to set up the accommodation, and Richard to ensure his part of the Remembrance Service was well rehearsed.

The main party left on the 24th, and this also included 9 riders of the Royal British Legion Thailand Bikers who were to make the long journey on their ‘Bikes’ – and very impressive they were. Leaving at 0930 they arrived at 1600 hrs. When they arrived it was with a sense of relief, I think, as there is nothing more dicey than motorbikes on the road here, big and powerful as these bikes are. We also had Members arriving from all points of Thailand but in particular our members from Korat.

The Bikers are on their way.The Bikers are on their way.

The night before is usually a get together of all the legion members, but not too much as early the next morning for many it is off to Hellfire Pass, leaving at about 0300, as the ceremony there starts at 0530 and it is a long walk down. Well worth a visit, the bikers made the trip and returned with an additional 30 or so Australian bikers for the main ceremony.

The majority after a bite to eat got into transport for the short trip to Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery. The first thing one notices on entry is how immaculate the cemetery is kept. The second is members of the Royal British Legion Thailand, with Ron, Greg and the ladies ensuring people have a ‘Poppy’. Then into position for the Ceremony.

Flags to half mast, standard dips and those with head gear salute.Flags to half mast, standard dips and those with head gear salute.

This is a most poignant ceremony involving the march on, led by the British Club Bangkok Pipe Bang, followed by Standard Bearer Richard Holmes of the Royal British Legion Thailand, and the ‘Honour Guard’. Soon in position, the ceremony begins and for all to see it is a marvelous occasion. We are reminded of the reason we are there and are made to listen with sadness as ‘Survivors’ tell of the hell of those years. The ceremony is approximately 1 hour, and these days it is suitably hot; however, after the ‘March Off’ the guests are invited to a ‘Sausage Sizzle’ and more importantly a few ‘Cold Uns’. We thank the hosts for their hospitality.

Group Photo at Chungkai.Group Photo at Chungkai.

For the Royal British Legion Thailand the day was not over as we then made our annual visit to the lesser known War Cemetery at the River Kwai called Chungkai. This in fact was the first War Cemetery, built by the Prisoners of War for those who died in the Camp Hospital.  It is also the resting place of many of the British who died on the Death Railway.

It is situated on the river about ten minutes outside the main city. We found it many years ago and promised to lay a wreath there every year. To this we go back in numbers every year and for the last few years have been privileged to have the British Ambassador to join us.  We hold a small ceremony led by the chairman and the secretary and this is a most heartfelt ceremony, as some of our members have family interred here. I must thank here those who keep it in such fine condition.

Members arrive at the ceremony.Members arrive at the ceremony.

This essentially closed Anzac Day, apart from cementing our ties with our Aussie and Kiwi friends. At the bar, not forgetting next day, we were to do the visiting of the local sites.

The next day we were up bright and breezy to get into the busses and do the ‘Special Trip’ organised by Bert from his wide experience of the area. I will leave it for the photos to explain, but we had a really fine day and finished it with a visit to the Hellfire Pass Museum. Bert and I had a good sit down while the younger and more energetic walked down. All in all a fine and poignant few days.  T.T.F.N.

Wear a poppy please.Wear a poppy please.

Fred to lay wreath for the Royal British Legion Thailand.Fred to lay wreath for the Royal British Legion Thailand.

Bert tells of our Chungkai involvement.Bert tells of our Chungkai involvement.

Laying wreath.Laying wreath.

Band and Standard Bearer Ready to go.Band and Standard Bearer Ready to go.

Kevin Wild makes a donation of 20,000 baht to the museum.Kevin Wild makes a donation of 20,000 baht to the museum.

Eddy, Mrs. Derek Brook and the Ambassador of the U.K were there.Eddy, Mrs. Derek Brook and the Ambassador of the U.K were there.

Royal British Legion Riders and Bert, the standard bearer and the ambassador.Royal British Legion Riders and Bert, the standard bearer and the ambassador.

Bert starts the tour.Bert starts the tour.

Nigel does not know which way to go.Nigel does not know which way to go.

Nigel at the waterfall.Nigel at the waterfall.

Ron and an old train.Ron and an old train.