The Kanchanaburi War Cemetery is home to the remains of 6,982 Allied prisoners of war who died during the construction of the notorious Thai-Burmese Death Railway.
Most casualties are from Commonwealth countries, and around 1,800 are Dutch.
The railway was built by Commonwealth, Dutch and American prisoners of war, overseen by the Japanese, who had an extensive army in Burma and required supplies from Thailand via a route safer than sea. (The remains of the Americans were repatriated.) During the railway's construction, an estimated 13,000 out of some 60,000 prisoners who worked on the railway died, and were buried along the railway. An additional estimated 80,000 to 100,000 civilians who were brought from then-Malaya and the Dutch East Indies, or conscripted in Thailand and Burma, were used as forced labourers ("romusha") and also died, out of a total of some 200,000.
Work on the 414-kilometre line began in October 1942 and was finished in late 1943, with two labour forces working on each end of the line, working towards the centre and cutting through stone where required, as steam trains could only climb a gentle incline. The line began in Nong Pladuk in Thailand and ended at Thanbyuzayat in Burma. If you're interested in the railway, it's worth a trip out to Hellfire Pass to see the moving museum there.
The graves of those who died during the construction and maintenance of the railway were transferred from various burial grounds and locations along the railway into three cemeteries: Kanchanaburi, Chungkai and Thanbyuzayat in Burma.
The very well-kept Kanchanaburi cemetery, with manicured gardens and lawns, has a reverential and sober atmosphere, emphasised by the uniformed veterans who occasionally stroll among the graves.
Neatly laid out in row upon row, this is the most commonly visited of Kanchanaburi's war cemeteries and is well worth the time to wander, reading the markers of those died -- most of the dead were only aged in their 20s. Registers are kept in the cemetery service area and you can ask for them from one of the gardeners.
The cemetery is found on Sangchuto Road, nearly opposite the train station and right by the Death Railway Museum.
Located beside the war cemetery is a large Chinese cemetery, which, while almost always deserted, is an interesting contrast to the immaculately kept Allied graveyard next door and makes for a photogenic 15 minute wander if you happen to be in the area. The Chinese graves are built above ground and some have ornate ceramic artwork. A large pagoda sits at the centre of the cemetery.