Bridge on the River Kwai RCAF bomber crew commemorated in Thailand
On April 1st, 2016 – the anniversary of the birth of the Royal Canadian Air Force – members of 101 Squadron were in Kanchanaburi, Thailand, to commemorate the RCAF’s part in an historical bombing raid during WWII.
Kanchanaburi is the site of the infamous Bridge on the River Kwai. Built by the Japanese using Allied POWs and conscripted Asians as slave labourers, the bridge is part of “the Death Railway” named for the thousands who died from the brutal conditions. Many attempts were made by the RAF and USAF to bomb the vital bridge from airfields based in India. Some met with success, but each time the bridge was damaged POWs were forced to repair it again. A few months before the final days of WWII a bomber with an RCAF crew flown by F/L Roy Borthwick of North Vancouver, BC, part of a large raid of Liberator bombers from RAF 159, 355, and 356 Squadrons, destroyed the bridge for the final time.
In 2003 Rod Beattie built the Thai Burma Railway Center (http://tbrconline.com) to tell the story of the Death Railway in an unbiased way. During a visit to the museum in 2014 101 members noted there was no mention of Canada’s part in the destruction of the bridge. With the help of Robert Quirk, and Matt Poole – a historian in Washington, DC – the details of the final raid were researched and verified. With the approval of Rod Beattie and Terry Manttan, directors of Thai Burma Railway Center, 101 had a small panel made which now hangs beside the larger panel that tells the story of the bridge’s destruction. Together they complete that story.
101 Squadron is proud to have helped commemorate the role Canada played in the final destruction of the Bridge across the River Kwai.