THE HON WARREN SNOWDON MP
Minister for Veterans’ Affairs
17 June 2011
The experiences of Australian Prisoners of War (POWs) at Hellfire Pass during the Second World War will be captured in a new website that will help commemorate their plight and raise public awareness, the Minister for Veterans’ Affairs, Warren Snowdon, announced today.
Mr Snowdon said Hellfire Pass in Thailand on the Thai-Burma Railway, has become synonymous with the Australian POW experience in Asia.
“The experience of Australian prisoners at Hellfire Pass and at other locations on the railway was horrendous.
“More than 13,000 Australian prisoners of war were forced to work on the Thai-Burma Railway.
Work commenced on Hellfire Pass in April 1943, with prisoners working grueling 18 hour shifts, day after day, removing large amounts of earth from the cutting.
“They were forced to live in terrible conditions, often starving, with no medical supplies resulting in a very high death rate with more than 2,800 Australians perishing,” he said.
Working in partnership with the Australian National University, the Australian Government will develop a new, innovative and unique website to take visitors on a ‘virtual tour’ through Hellfire Pass today and as it was during the Second World War.
“The website will give all Australians the opportunity to explore and learn about the Australian experience at Hellfire Pass.
It will allow them to compare what it is like today to how the prisoners experienced it almost 70 years ago.“The website will use modern footage as well as historical photographs and GPS referencing to form a ‘virtual tour’ that will include the current walking trail and old camp sites located within the vicinity of Hellfire Pass,” he said.
ANU historian Professor Joan Beaumont said, “The site will provide a wealth of information about the prisoners who lived and died on the pass, with oral histories, eye witness accounts and personal profiles including that of renowned doctor Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop.”
Mr Snowdon said he is pleased the Australian Government has been able to support this initiative with $91,000 in funding.
The website will become the first in a series of websites highlighting significant places for Australians along the Thai-Burma Railway.
The ‘virtual tour’ will complement the already available Hellfire Pass online audio guide.
The online audio guide, developed by the Office of Australian War Graves is available for download on the DVA website www.dva.gov.au/audioguides.htm.
The website is due to be completed in April 2013, to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Australians commencing work at Hellfire Pass.
Minister Snowdon: Alice Plate 0400 045 999
Department of Veterans’ Affairs Media: 02 6289 6203
ANU media: Martyn Pearce 02 6125 5575, 0416 249 245