Collated by Ron Taylor
Material supplied by Simon Moss
When the Japanese entered the war in December 1941, quick victories were achieved in many parts of the Far East, they then turned their aggression towards Burma and India. Supplies and men being urgently wanted for this conquest, there was a problem however. It was easy for the Allies to search out and sink Japanese transport ships, a land solution therefore had to be found.
In October 1942 the Japanese started the construction of a railway, this was deemed by the British before the war as near impossible. The Japanese started the Death Railway construction from both ends of the proposed route from Thanbyuzayat in Burma to Ban Pong in Thailand, using Allied prisoners and native labour as slave labour, the two tracks met near Konkoita in Thailand on 17th October 1943.
The Allies saw the danger and bombed the railway, succeeding in slowing down these supplies in 1944. By this time the Japanese had reached India and the Battle of Kohima took place. The Japanese were defeated at Kohima and the Allies were on the offensive, driving the Japanese forces back into Burma. It was evident that if the Japanese were pushed back through Burma it could result in their forces being cut off, an escape route was required, the Mergui Road was built for this reason.
The Mergui Road started construction in April 1945, the prisoners that survived were still working on the road when the Japanese surrendered on 18th August 1945.
Work Force - with camp map
Booklet on the Mergui Road by John L. Sugden
Mergui Episode - POW Dairy
Jap Sadism on the Mergui Road - Rangoon Liberator
War Crimes Trial
Donald Smith, in And All the Trumpets, writes a good account of the Mergui Road’s construction, most of the detail is in the chapter I Walk With The Ox. Under nourishment and disease were causes for the deaths of the prisoners but a major factor was the workload, the Japanese working the prisoners to death.
I would like to thank Simon Moss for collecting material while in Thailand for this article.