To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Borneo Investigation Report

Part Two

Investigations into the

Ranau Marches and Area

 

The Marches to Ranau

By February 1945 the Allied threat to Sandakan had become a distinct reality and the Japanese decided to commence movement of the PoWs from Sandakan to Jesselton. By the time the PoWs had reached Ranau, Jesselton was being continually raided by Allied aircraft and the PoW were not taken beyond the Ranau area.

A Japanese battalion had marched in January 1945 from Tawad to Jesselton with 800 effectives it had finished the journey with 200. The Japanese therefore, were well aware of the strain which the march would impose on half-starved, malaria-ridden men, some of whom were suffering acutely from beri-beri and dysentery.

The track itself was newly cut by the Japanese and avoided all native villages or inhabited areas. It was about 20 feet wide, crossed numerous swollen streams and in many places was ankle deep in mud. This was a severe test for PoW who were badly shod and who in some cases possessed no footwear at all. About 25 miles East of Ranau the track started to climb upwards to the Crocker Ranges, Ranau itself being about 4000ft above sea level.

The following is a resume of the nembers of PoWs believed to have taken part in the three marches to Ranau.

First March

 

WO1 Sticpewich - PoW

470 PoW (370 Australian, 100 British) departed Sandakan 14 February 1945. 120 PoW died on the track and 350 reached Ranau.

1 Lt Watanabe -  In Command of march

First March, states 450 PoW (320 Australian, 130 British) departed Sandakan 14 February 1945. 220 PoW died on the track and 230 PoW reached Ranau.

Second March

 

WO1 Sticpewich - |PoW

Approx 500 Australian and British PoW departed Sandakan 29 May 1945. Approx 290 died on the track and 204 (143 Australian, 61 British) reached Ranau. 6 PoW from the First Party were still alive at Ranau when they arrived.

Capt Takakuwa - In Command of march

537 Australians and British PoW departed Sandakan 29 May 1945. Approx 354 died on the track and 183 reached Ranau. 9 PoW from the First Party were still alive at Ranau when they arrived.

Third March

 

WO1 Sticpewich - |PoW

No knowledge of this march.

Capt Takakuwa - In Command of march

75 Australian and British PoW departed Sandakan on 11 June 1945. They all died on the track. Lt Suzuki, i.c Third March, reached Ranau but since deceased.

History of PoW Ranau

The First Party of PoWs reached Ranau in early April 1945 and lived in a compound near Ranau village. It was situated in cleared country and easily visible to Allied aircraft.

On 27th April Ranau was heavily bombed by Allied aircraft and the PoWs, now reduced to about 60 strong, were moved to a small compound at Sinarut.

In early June there were only 20 PoWs still alive and when the Second Party arrived from Sandakan in mid June. there were less than 10 survivors to greet them.

With the arrival of the Second Party the PoWs were concentrated in a new compound at the 110.25 mile post. The compound was in thick jungle and completely hidden from the air.

The PoWs were used as porters for carrying rice, and averaged a distance of 150 miles a week on this work. Their food was pitifully inadequate and medical supplies were non-existent.

On 28th July 1945 when WO1 Sticpewich escaped from the compound there were approx 30-35 Pow still living.

All the evidence points to the fact that appox 20 of those were still alive in late August and that they were killed by the Japanese at least a week after pamphlets proclaiming the surrender had been dropped in the area.

A total of approx 544 unidentified PoW graves have been located in the Ranau area. A more detailed report will follow by Capt T.L. Mort of investigations carried out in the Ranau area.

Evidence Given by Local Inhabitants - Signed by Capt T.L. Mort

Kabirau of Kampong Mangwo :- At approximately the first week in September 1945 I went to the compound at 110.25 mile to sell vegetables as instructed by the Japanese. I found only Japanese there. I cant say whether any were officers. They were middle aged and their gear was packed up.  They were angry with me for not bringing the vegetables the day before and threatened to beat me, so I put the goods down and went away quickly - on my way out I left the track and took a short cut through the jungle - only about 100 yards away from the camp and about 20 off the track I saw a pile of hats and caps and on the ground near them about 20 feet of rope and congealed blood, about two buckets full. There were no graves nearby and no sign of any bodies being dragged away. I did not stay long in this spot but went on my way.

At about the middle of September I was walking along an animal track just off the main road at 111 mile peg when I came upon two large graves only about a week to 10 days old - there were no sticks or crosses on the graves and I thought they have been Japanese graves but now since I have taken the Australian Officer to the graves they had been  dug up by pigs. I know now that they are Eurpopeans and there are at least five men buried there.

Note by Cat Mort:- The five bodies exhumed were identified as follows:

          One RAF Officer

          One Army Captain with thermometer in pocket

          One Army Officer, no rank identified (Sam Brown belt)

          Two others, presumably Officers

It is considered that there are at least 6 men buried and that all  are Officers.

Salunti of Kampong Sinarut :- In August 1945 I was engaged by Capt Ripley to spy on the prisoners camp and find out how many were left.

On the 11th August I visited the compound and gained entrance by taking vegetables. I saw one prisoner tied to a tree near the sentry box and there were others. I saw about five men who were allowed to move about the camp - this was about 0730 in the morning. I reported this to Capt Ripley on the 12th August - on 13th August I was sent to the compound again and I went at 0730 hours on 14th August and gained entrance in the same way as before. I did not see any prisoners on this visit, if they had been in their huts I could not have seen them.

The pamphlets were dropped from the air after my visit.

I did not want to go to the compound again but went to Selad with Capt. Ripley

I have heard the name Abu Kabar but I have never seen him - the Japanese at the compound whom I gave the vegetables to was the sentry in both cases - he was atationed at the sentry box - he used to walk up and down. I saw about thirty naked men in the sun about 2 o’clock in the day. A sentry was with them and I saw a sentry beat a prisoner to death with his rifle. I was too far away to recognise the soldier who did this - he did not wear an armband.

I have also seen prisoners carrying their own dead for burial. Once i saw 9 bodies being carried away, 3 were wrapped in blankets and a lot of blood dripping from the blankets. They were carried strapped to poles and each body was carried by two men. I do not remember any Japanese names other than Watanabe whom I know was Japanese commander of the prison.

Orang Tua Inguru of Kampong Matan :- I was instructed by the Japanese to supply vegetables and food in excahange for salt and clothing. The Japanese I dealt with was named Honishi. I used to go to the Jap HQ at 112 Mile camp about three time a week. The last time I went there was the 7th September. A week before this Honishi told me that the remaining poWs were bing taken to Tambunan. Honishi told me that there were 15 alive to go to Tambunan.

Edmuno Jaimi of Ranau :- I knew a Japanese clerk named Ohira who, when I asked, told me that there weren’t many left as they were dying of Malaria. This was about the beginning of September.

About the 25th August when the Japs startedto go to concentration areas Ohira told me that the remaining PoWs were being taken to Tamunan.

On the 27th August I saw 19 European prisoners pass 112 mil camp going towards 110.25 mile. They were very thin and dressed in rags. They were carrying everything in bags.

prior to me seeing these prisoners I knew that two lots of pamphlets were dropped. The first one the Japs thought was propaganda.

I knew that Watanabe was the senior Jap officer at the PoW camp. I also heard that Abu Kabar former school teacher of Keningau whom I know before the war was also holding some Japanese rank and in charge of the PoW camp also.

Kangas and Batingki of Kampong Ganagana:- About 2 o’clock one day in March 1945 while carrying rice to Paginatan we were ahead of the prisoners and rested till the prisoners caught up. We swa two Japanese soldiers twist a rope round a prisoners neck and both me pulled on the rope till the prisoner choked and died. They kicked the body off the side of the road into the jungle. We all marched on with our loads. We have not seen any other prisoners killed.

Kamnating of Kampong Kandawayon:- I was instructed by the Japanese to take vegetables to the Japanese Compound 110.25 mile. Twice in August when I took vegetables I saw prisoners dressed in ragged shorts, no shirts or boots bur wearing large felt hats - they were working for the Japanese at 113 mile building a hut. The last time I saw these prisoners was about the 20th August 1945. I went again to the camp about five days afterwards but I did not see any prisoners.

I heard a rumour in the kampong about the end of August or first week in September that the remaining prisoners had been executed.

Evidence by Service Personnel

Lieutenant S.O Serjeant, VX135777, Australian War Graves

I investigated 2 PoW graves at the 111 mile, which are presumed to contain the remains of 7 Officers. Two Japanese cartridge cases were found by myself alongside the graves. These cartridge cases had been fired and were not very old.

Capt. T.L. Mort’s Summery on Ranau

Sworn statements were obtained from natives which revealed that PoWs were still alive at the end of August. The number still alive at this stage is doubtful but towards the last week in August it is likely that 15 to 20 remained alive. At this stage surrender pamphlets had been dropped and were found in the compound area, in fact they were dropped in the area on 18th August.

One witness claims that the Japanese thought the pamphlets were propaganda and did take any notice of them. It appears that the second pamphlet drop convinced them that the war was over.

About the second week in September the Japanese from the Ranau and 110.25 mile camps left for concentration areas at Tuaran and Keningau.

It was mentioned by the Japanese that the remaining PoWs were taken to Tambunan which is on Route to Keningau, but this did not happen. One native swears that the last week in August he saw what he though to be a killing area by the amount of blood on the ground. He also found fresh graves which turned out to be three certain identified Officers bodies. War Graves representatives picked up used .25 rounds beside the graves, also one skull had been cleft in half.

Another native led the War Graves Officer to an isolated grave at 110 mile where they found the grave to contain for certain six bodies, probably more, with a set of army dentures and clothing at the graveside.

Also found on 12th November beside the compound cemetery were two stretchers, which were saturated with decomposed blood. One skull of the last buried was badly fractured.

It would appear that late in August the remaining PoWs were taken out of the compound in three parties, a party of five or six Officers to 111  mile and were killed and buried there. A party of six or more (possibly NCOs) were taken to 110 mile point and were killed and buried there. The remainder called out to the entrance of the camp, killed and returned to the cemetery on stretchers.

No PoWs were seen to go past 109 mile towards Tambunan but they may well have been told by the Japanese that they were going, as it appears that they were marched out with their equipment, although none was found at the grave sides nor in the compound area. The Japanese must have demolished the PoW hut to cover up as much evidence as they could.

I am satisfied that no PoWs remain alive in the Ranau area.

 

                   

Ranau Burial Areas

Ranau PoW Compounds and Burial Areas-tn

Click on map to enlarge

(It is a large image and requires navigation)

 

Ist Party - Ex Sandakan - Accounting for 340 Approximately

No 1 Cemetery, Ranau Compound:-

 

 

In rows (unmarked)

264

 

 

Buried in Bomb Crater

24

 

 

 

288

No 2 Cemetry, Sinarut Compound:-

 

 

Unmarked Graves (Approx)

50

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total Graves 1st Party (all unmarked)

338

 

 

 

 

2nd Party - Ex Sandakan - Accounting for 204 plus 6 Survivors

No 1 Cemetery, 110.25 mile PoW Compound

 

 

Unmarked

128

 

 

Last remaining PoWs

62

 

 

 

 

Isolated grave 110 mile

 

 

Unmarked (possibly NCOs)

6

Isolated grave 111 mile

 

 

Unmarked, (possibly all Officers)

5

Escapees

 

 

Identified

2

 

 

 

 

 

 

Total for 2nd Party

203

 

Survivors From British North Borneo

A total of 6 Australian PoW succeeded in escaping on the marches to Ranau. Four of them recovered by a Frward Advance Party in the Ranau area in early August 1945.

The other two were extracted from the Sandakan area.

It was now considered definite that no Allied PoW are still alive in British North Borneo at this date.

 

[Borneo Investigation Report] [Part One] [Part Two] [Jesselton] [Sandakan] [Sandakan Mar ches] [Part Three] [Part Four] [Part Five]

 

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[Borneo Investigation Report] [Part One] [Part Two] [Jesselton] [Sandakan] [Sandakan Graves] [I dentification from Paybooks] [Sandakan Marches] [Ranau Burial Areas] [Part Three] [Labuan Ma p] [Sjt Maj Sugino Statement] [Maj Ikegami Tomoyuki Statement] [2/Lt Shimozawa Takaharu Stat ement] [Cases Dealt With] [Part Four] [Letter from PWLO 9 Div] [Full Kuching Numbers Release d] [Part Five] [Major Suga Speech] [1/Lt Watanabe Statement] [Hashimoti Maao Statement] [S/M  Beppu, Yoichi Statement] [Japanese Death Reports] [Atrocities] [600 Gunners Party] [Labuan Pa rty] [Sandakan] [Java] [Roll of Honour]

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