Lest we forget: Kundasang War Memorial, Sabah

The Kundasang War Memorial honours the British and Australian soldiers who died in the Sandakan prisoner of war camps and on the death marches to Ranau. (Pinterest pic)

“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.” – John F Kennedy

President John F Kennedy who was assassinated on Nov 22, 1963, was right. War is not the answer to everything. War causes more misery than glory.

Just as Sun Tzu said, “All war is deception” and Ernest Hemingway, “Never think that war, no matter how necessary, nor how justified, is not a crime“.

The Kundasang War Memorial, in Sabah honours the British and Australian soldiers who died in the Sandakan prisoner of war camp and on the death marches to Ranau, as well as the suffering and sacrifice of the local population of Sabah.

2,428 Australian and British prisoners of war died here during World War II. (Pinterest pic)

The memorial had been neglected for years until in 2005, local resident and history enthusiast Sevee Charuruks used his own money to fix it up and maintain it, until the Australian government stepped in with several grants.

The first thing one sees on entering the memorial is a framed map, showing the long route of the forced marches to Ranau.

It is hard not to imagine the thoughts of the POWs on that tortuous journey through the jungle. Many were likely longing for their families and thinking of their homeland.

The memorial was built to commemorate the 2,428 Australian and British prisoners of war who died at the camps and during the three infamous death marches from Sandakan to Ranau and to pay tribute to the locals who risked their lives aiding the prisoners of war.

Plaques line the wall of the colonnade with the names of all the dead inscribed on them. (Pinterest pic)

There were only six Australian survivors of the Sandakan and Ranau camps, who had all escaped. There were no British survivors.

The monument consists of four interlocking but separate gardens — the Australian Garden, English Garden, Borneo Garden and the Contemplation Garden, with a reflecting pool and colonnade.

The English Garden is full of roses while the Borneo Garden has a wide array of the wild flowers of Kinabalu.

Throughout the gardens there are plaques with words of encouragement and remembrance. The gardens are beautiful and bright with colour, a fitting tribute to the lives of those who were sacrificed. But one wonders, was it worth it?

The view of the Kundasang Valley offers peace. (Pinterest pic)

After the solemn Contemplation Garden, a balcony offers a view of the picturesque Kundasang valley. It is so calm, so peaceful, overlooking the valley with only the chirping of the birds breaking the silence.

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Khai and wife Amira are Malaysian travel bloggers who blog at Kaki Jalans. Their travels have taken them to almost all the countries in Asean and five countries in Europe. They are still actively travelling and adding to this list.