The Bridge on River Kwai

Courtesy of Lalin Fernando and Rohan Wijeyesekera

ONE: The Bridge on the River Kwai is a 1957 British World War II film by David Lean based on The Bridge over the River Kwai novel by French writer Pierre Boulle. The film is a work of fiction but borrows the construction of the Burma Railway in 1942–43 for its historical setting. It stars William Holden, Jack Hawkins, Alec Guinness and Sessue Hayakawa. The film was shot in Sri Lanka (credited as Ceylon, as it was known at the time). The bridge in the movie was located at Kitulgala, near Yatiyanthota , Sri Lanka .The Bridge over the River Kwai1(1)

The film achieved near universal critical acclaim, winning seven Academy Awards, and in 1997, this film was deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” and selected for preservation in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry

An outstanding presentation.– be sure to continue viewing after the music stops and catch the actual pictures taken during WW II.

TWO: A Note from Brigadier Peter Alkemade, sent to Richard Hermon, 23 Feb 2012:**

Back in 1980 Paul Lucas and I travelled on the railway as far as it goes these days.

One fact not discussed is that the steel bridge in the sequence was built after the original timber bridge before the railway opened.  The timber one was a simple trestle bridge not like the one the Japanese tried to build in the movie before they handed the job to the Brits.  The steel bridge was a Krupp bridge actually taken from Java by the Japanese.  The RAF USAF bombed both bridges many times and in 1945 destroyed 3 centre arched spans.  These were replaced by the 2 angular spans now in the centre of the bridge.

Although 60,000 allied POW involved in the construction worked under appalling conditions and suffered a high death rate (16,000) it is less well known that 180,000 Thai and Burmese were involved of whom 90,000 died. A final irony is that the river was renamed after the movie was such a success, originally it was known as the Mea Klong (Klong = river) and Khwae actually means water buffalo.

** Richard Hermon sent this MEMO to Lalin with this covering note: “[Alkemade] Graduated one class ahead of me and served with me in my Regt. we did Regt Officers Advanced course together at Puckapunyal, which houses the Armoured Centre for Australia.”

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