The Sandakan Memorial Park commemorates the lives of thousands of allied prisoners of war who perished in Borneo at the hands of their Japanese captors.
Following Japan’s rapid conquest of South-east Asia during 1941 and 1942, many Allied service personnel became prisoners of war.
Some 2,000 Australian and 770 British Prisoners of War (POWs) were housed at the Sandakan camp where the memorial park now stands.
In January 1945 the first of three infamous “Death Marches” took place when prisoners were force-marched 260 kilometres to Ranau, setting out from this location.
By the end of the war only six prisoners were still alive, and then only because they escaped.
This park was created by the Australian Government, together with the Sabah state government as a memorial to those who suffered and died here.
The excavator seen above was commandeered by the Japanese for the construction of an airfield but it was sabotaged by an Australian prisoner to slow down the Japanese war effort.
There is an interpretive pavilion providing models and maps of the camp, descriptions of the appalling treatment and suffering of the prisoners, the bravery of the locals who helped them and harrowing accounts by the survivors.
Every year on Anzac Day a ceremony is held here to honour the POWs. Today the park is a tranquil and peaceful place to spend an hour reflecting on the poignant events that occurred here all those years ago.
Sandakan Memorial Park
Mile 8, Jalan Taman Rimba 1
90702 Sandakan, Sabah, Malaysia
Tel: +60 89275 400
GPS: 5.886974, 118.046787
Open daily from 8am to 6pm
Admission is free
This article first appeared in Malaysia Traveller