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Compiled & Copyright © Martin Edwards 2019
Photographs Copyright © Martin Edwards 2019

"This site commemorates a tragedy and atrocity which struck Sandakan between January and August 1945."

The Sandakan Memorial Park is a memorial site built in the former grounds of the former Sandakan camp in the Malaysian state of Sabah. The site is dedicated as a memory for all prisoners in the camp who died during the Sandakan Death Marches, and to those who died during the march to Ranau. Of the 1793 Australian and 641 British troops originally imprisoned here, the only survivors by July 1945 were six Australian escapees. It is also recognises the suffering and sacrifice of the native population. The memorial park is the first stop on the "POW Route" during the three death marches. The route begins in Sandakan and ends at the "Last POW Camp" at Ranau. Every stations on the route is marked with a sign.

As the Japanese expanded its Empire into the Southwest Pacific Ocean during the early stage of World War II, a large numbers of Allied soldiers prisoners were detained in a various camp in the pacific. In July 1942, already 1,500 Australian prisoners of war were transferred from Singapore to Sandakan as a forced labour to build a military airfield. The number getting increase in 1943, with about 2,500 prisoners had been housed in the camp site.

At the end of the war, all of the human remains of the prisoners of war, who were found during investigation at the site, were transferred to a military cemetery in Labuan. Those who can be identified were buried in a grave and marked with a name, while those who cannot be identified were listed on a corresponding plaques in Labuan and also in Singapore.

Of all those who had been alive in January 1945, by the end of August only six - all Australians - survived. Two of the six escaped into the jungle during the second march in June 1945. Assisted by local people, they were eventually picked up by Allied units. Anorther four escaped from Ranau in July and again, with the help of local people, were fed and fed and hidden from the Japanese until the end of the war.

In 1995, an agreement between the state government of Sabah, the government of Australia, the veterans association Returned & Services League of Australia (RSL) and the Sandakan Municipal Council resulted in the creation of this memorial site. The Australian government built the pavilion with an obelisk was erected on the memory site and restored the remains of the technical equipment of the facility with a digger, steam generator and other generator. The opening ceremony of the memorial site was held on 18 March 1999. The memorial park is located about 1.5 kilometres southwest of present-day Sandakan Airport, which occupies part of the former camp of the Australian B Force.

Those POW's whose bodies were recovered are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission war cemetery at Labuan. Those who could not be identified, or who have no known grave, are commemorated on Memorials tp the missing at Labuan and Singapore.


The memorial is divided into six stations that are connected by a circular route.


The English built Ruston-Bucyrus excavator was used for the construction of an airport for the Japanese. During repairs, it was sabotaged by Australian prisoners of war rendering it inoperable and so it never worked again.


Steam generator and other generator became the main power source for the camp. The wood-fired steam engine powered generator, was used for the lighting of the camp and its enclosure.

"The Great Tree"

The Great Tree (The Big Tree) is a huge specimen of a Mengarisbaumes (Koompassia excelsa) originally stood where the memorial obelisk is placed today. It was the dominant structure of the POW camp by its size. Shortly after the war, the tree was destroyed by a fire. A new Mengarisbaum was planted near the entrance on 25 April 2008 for the park.

Food depot, storage area and kitchen

The Japanese also operated a food depot and kitchen for the Japanese with a water tank that has been preserved in its original concrete form.

Main entrance and access road

The main entrance was on the east side of the memorial park before the storage area. The road leading to the airport and to the left and right was the Mile 8 Road street from Sandakan to Ranau. It was from here, all three marches to Ranau.

Memorial pavilion

The Sandakan Commemorative Pavilion was opened on 18 March 1999 by the Veterans Affairs Minister Bruce Scott of Australia. It contains a permanent exhibition about the POW camp and the death marches in both English and Malay language.

Note that an app is available that can be downloaded to be used as a guided tour of the memorial - details are available at the memorial reception; i9t is recommended that headphones be used when using the app around the memorial park. The app is available for both Apple and Android phones, simply go to Apple APP Store or Google Play™ App Store and search for Sandakan Memorial Park

[Sources: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Sandakan Memorial Park; Sabah Tourism - Sandakan Memorial Park]

Malaysian side of the memorial

Abandoned excavator

Concrete w ater containers

The Sandakan Commemorative Pavilion (above and below)

Sandakan Commemorative Pavilion Plaque

Stained glass window inside Sandakan Commemorative Pavilion

Doors into Sandakan Commemorative Pavilion

Model of the camp layout

Abandoned equipment (above and below)

Jungle surrounding the camp (above and below)

Last updated 26 May, 2019

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