Today, 6th July 2016, almost a year on from starting my years travel, I met up with a friend Ray and his wife Khammah, who I stayed with in Ubon Ratchathani last September. When I visited them in Khamma’s village where they live and have a house (Ray spends some time here in the UK too), I got to see lots of real Thai life including her sister’s country life (Esaan life)! (See my others posts on these days.)
But today I can share an exciting discovery I was able to share with Ray and Khamma whilst they took me out and about. Ray was looking for an old WW2 airfield he had heard about whilst exploring historical biographies and war stories, and wanted to track it down. No-one knew of it formally to direct him, but he had found it on Google Earth so off we went. Driving down roads then little narrow lanes into fields, we stopped at a school where he was going to ask about it but I dismissed this as a wild goose chase. It wasn’t! Believe it or not, he found a cleaned, just passing by, who’s father knew all about the Prisoner of War camp that this airfield was linked with! This was a chance in a million!
She took us to meet her father, following in Ray’s car, and although he was due to attend a friend’s funeral, helped us find this airfield! We explored, we saw bomb hollows, we drove the length of the airfield as if a plane, and Ray recounted the memories he’d heard of that brought us there! Tong Dee, the old man now who was the boy who sneaked in to the PoW camp to talk to the mainly British prisoners, taking food, getting trinkets and the fun and excitement this was for an 8 year old boy! His memory and directions were remarkable, taking us also to the horse cemetery where 1000 horses had to be killed by the British as too badly ill to heal after their rough treatment by the Japanese, and the camp site itself, neither now recognisable as such.
He took us to his home to meet his wife and son, and we were honoured by this, and he and Ray shared stories of the veterans Ray met who had been there, which the old man was excited at, wondering if he knew those men as his ‘friends’ back then!
It was a privilege to witness both the discoveries & explorations and the sharing of these two men from different cultures and countries sharing experiences from different perspectives! Khamma has been involved throughout, often translating what Ray wanted to ask about, and the answers but getting fully involved with her husbands interests and the local people she was part of!
It has now mushroomed into several presentations Ray was asked to give to commanders of the Thai airforce and Ubon’s officials, visits to the museum he wanted to find out information from and to key professionals through a group of local philanthropists! Who knew this is where that day out would lead?
This was a follow on, too, for me from my visits to Kanchanaburi and the Bridge over the River Kwai (not really the right river …), the PoW camp museum and cemetery there too, so this made it all the more real for me rather than just recent history…
I can now share this, and the pictures, and soon the link he has to the information he has collected. I hope you enjoy it and find it as interesting and exciting as I have, being involved in history unfolding before us!
Link to official information here about prisoners of war in Ubon Ratchathani