“No town in the world wears the wounds of war more terribly and more honourable than does Sandakan. Wherever we look, there is destruction far beyond mere repair.”
Governor general of Malaya & British Borneo 1946
World War II came to Sandakan on 19th January 1942 which started the Japanese occupation until liberation by a Brigade of the Australian 9th Division on the 19th October, 1945. During this period, a number of British and Australian prisoners of war (POW’s) were held at Mile 8, a colonial agricultural and forestry station on the Labuk Road. All but six (6) of these nearly 3,000 prisoners were killed during the three “Death Marches” to Ranau about 250km to the west.
Today the actual campsite is known as the Sandakan Memorial Park, established in 1986, by the Australian RSL/Government and co-managed by the Sandakan Municpal Council. One of the significant ceromonies held there was 1995, commemorating the fiftieth (50) annerversary of the end of World War II. It was attended amongst others, by the three survivors of the Sandakan POW camp. Since then, the Park has been improved to include a small interpretation building in 1999 which now houses an impressive collection of old photographs and description of the wartime attrocities that occurred at the site.
Sandakan Dat is a special day to honour these prisoners of war and to remember the local civilians who suffered and died defending the spirit of freedom and peace. It is also a fitting tribute to a group of nineteen (19) Chinese community leaders in Sandakan who were beheded and buried in a mass grave on the 27th May 1945. The memorial was erected at the site, near the Chinese Cemetery and is currently being maintained by the Sandakan Chinese Chamber of Commerce.
North Borneo News and Fortnightly Revue (1st March 1948:3)
For more information on Sandakan Day
Sandakan Municipal Council
Sabah Tourism Board