Although its plot and characters were fictional, David Lean’s classic 1957 PoW movie was based on the construction of a real bridge – over the river Mae Klong near the town of Kanchanaburi in Thailand.
Allied prisoners were used as slave labour by the Japanese to build the line, which ran north to re-supply their armies fighting in Burma. The conditions depicted in the film were harsh, but nowhere near as tough as reality. More than 18,000 allied prisoners died while working on the railway, along with 80,000–100,000 civilians. A memorial, two museums and a war cemetery commemorate the dead.
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