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75th anniversary of Australian work on Hellfire Pass and the completion of the Thai Burma Railway

Date Tuesday, 16 October 2018
Venue Ballarat, Victoria
Attendance By invitation to eligible veteran nominations
Nominations Close at 5pm on Friday 3 August 2018


For Australians, the most well-known of many notorious sites along the Thai-Burma railway was Hellfire Pass.  Named for both the brutal conditions under which prisoners worked and the fact that at night the scene was lit by carbide lights, bamboo fires and hessian wicks in containers full of diesel oil, Hellfire Pass, remarked one former prisoner, 'looked like a scene out of Dante's inferno'.  Located at Konyu, Thailand, Hellfire Pass consisted of two cuttings, the first measured 460-metres long by 7.6-metres deep, the second was 73-metres long and 24-metres deep.  The work here, which involved drilling, blasting and digging through solid rock was as dangerous as any on the railway. 

Work began at Hellfire Pass in late April 1943. At the beginning, prisoners had to move one square metre of earth per day, within two days this was doubled and after a week increased to three square metres. Survivors of the initial draft of 380 men sent to the pass were joined in June by more prisoners and compelled to work even harder. Southeast Asian labourers, including Cambodian jack-hammer operators, also worked on this section of the track. Shifts lasted 18 hours a day, a regimen that continued until the cutting was complete after some six weeks work.  Work on the railway continued until 16 October 1943 when the two ends of the track were joined.  More than 2800 Australians are believed to have lost their lives working on the Thai Burma Railway, some 700 of them at Hellfire Pass.

Nominations are now open for eligible surviving Australian veterans, accompanied by one nominated carer, to be supported by DVA to attend the National Service to be held in Ballarat, Victoria on 16 October 2018.

Nominations will close at 5pm, 3 August 2018.

Domestic Commemorations can be contacted on 02 6120 8078 for more information.


All of the forms and documentation listed below are required to be completed and returned for the commemoration nomination process:

Successful nominees will be required to undergo a medical assessment, this will be arranged by DVA and is in addition to the medical information supplied by your GP, to confirm suitability for travel to Ballarat. DVA will arrange for ground transport, return travel and accommodation for veterans and one nominated carer only.

To assist with the medical clearance process a letter has also been provided for you to give to your General Practitioner.

Please note

  • Only one carer may be nominated for the Veteran. In the interest of the Veteran's wellbeing, that carer will share a room with the Veteran and accompany the Veteran to all DVA organised events.
  • DVA organised events, over the period of the commemoration, are for the Veteran and nominated carer only. Additional family members have not been catered for with regard to DVA organised ground transport, the Welcome Dinner and the Official Reception. We appreciate your understanding as exceptions cannot be made. 
  • All transportation will be arranged for the Veteran and the nominated carer by the Department of Veterans' Affairs.
  • All hotel accommodation arrangements will be twin-share, i.e. two beds in the same hotel room. Please ensure that the person you nominate as your carer is willing to comply with this arrangement.

Nominations should be emailed or posted to DVA and are to be received by the specified closing date, being Friday, 3 August 2018.

Contact information


Domestic Commemorations
Mail 1117
Department Veterans' Affairs
GPO Box 9998


Telephone: (02) 6120 8078



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