''This is the story of a bridge," narrates American movie star Ronald Reagan, at the beginning of a 1945 propaganda film called The Stilwell Road. "It is a land bridge to China." At the time, China, the United States, Britain and other Allied forces were fighting Japan in the final stages of the second world war.
The 1,736-kilometre-long Ledo Road - renamed in honour of the US Army's General Joseph Stilwell at the suggestion of Chinese Nationalist leader Chiang Kai-shek - ran from Ledo, in Assam, India, through Myanmar to Kunming, Yunnan province. The road was built as a supply route for China, which was otherwise hemmed in by enemy forces. It replaced - and in some parts reclaimed - the Burma Road, which had been cut by the Japanese in 1942. The first convoy - 113 vehicles - to complete the new route arrived in Kunming on February 4, 1945.
In 2010, British photographer Findlay Kember embarked on his own Stilwell Road project, "to provide a fitting tribute to those who laboured through the jungles of South Asia to make it possible and to understand how the population of the present day are using the road".
"I had heard of Joseph Stilwell as a fearless commander of troops in the second world war in the Asian Theatre and the more I read about him, the more I wanted to journey along the road which bore his name," says Kember. The road was built under Stilwell's direction.
"Influenced by the work of Raghubir Singh, who produced the peerless photo essay on the Grand Trunk Road in India, I set out to bring attention to the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the completion of the first journey along the entire length of [the Stilwell Road]," says Kember.
Due to present-day politics, it proved impossible for Kember to cross the national borders through which the road travels, so he visited the three countries involved on different trips, to document what's left of the Stilwell Road.
"On the final trip we took [in February, this year] - I was accompanied, as ever, by my long suffering wife - we were passengers on tiny Chinese 125cc scooters along the heavily rutted track between Namyun and Pangsau Pass, in northern Myanmar," says Kember.
"This six-hour journey was the highlight of the trip, not only because it was the final stage of the long project, but because the enthusiasm of the young men who piloted us through the large puddles of muddy water was indicative of the drive and determination of all who we encountered on the route: surely the most fitting of tributes to the men and women who laboured on the Stilwell Road."