To honour those who served their country

“In this their finest hour”

Borneo Investigation Report

Part Two

Investigations in the

 Sandakan Area


History of PoW Sandakan

Berhala Island

The Sandakan PoW Compound was originally sited on Berhala Island, about 1 mile North of Sandakan itself. It was opened on 15th August 1942, the inmates being 500 Australian PoWs who had recently come via Kuching from Singapore.

Living conditions in the camp were reasonably good. The PoWs were separated in solid wooden houses which had been erected before the war and the camp itself was situated by the beach where the PoWs were allowed to bathe under supervision of the Japanese guards.

Their food was adequate and they worked during the daytime on the mainland at the Experimental Farm Station, 8 mile West of Sandakan, which was to become their  next camp. This was completed by the end of April 1943 at which  time the Berhala PoW Compound was shut down.

By July 1943 the number of PoWs at Sandakan had risen to 2731, it is believed that 1943 were Australian and the remaining 788 were British Army and RAF personnel.

From then untill October 1944 the PoWs worked on the airfield and lived a hard but was reasonably bearable.

During this time the following depletion’s to their strength of 2731 had occurred:

Moved to:







British PoWs




Australian PoWs


Escaped Approx


Australian PoWs




British and Australian PoWs


Died at Sandakan







A captured Japanese document gives the PoW strength at Sandakan in October 1944 as 2400. On the above figures it is 2444 which is not an unreasonable assumption.

From October 1944 onwards the food situation quickly deteriorated and the PoWs were forced to live almost entirely on food grown in their own gardens and fruit from the natives.

In late December the Japanese further drastically reduced the ration and by February 1945 the death rate was over 100 a month.

Figures from Japanese Death Certificates give the following striking results of this enforced starvation:-
























(After first march)












(After second march)





The total for March 1945 probably includes a number of PoWs who died in the early stages of the march to Ranau. Those for June-July are considered completely unreliable (200 is nearer the correct figure) and it seems likely that when the Japanese were ordered after the surrender to account for all PoWs in British North Borneo they compiled a false death certificate for those PoWs whom they knew to have been in that area and of whom they held no definite information.

On the above Japanese figures 1492 PoWs are buried at Sandakan. Investigations since 15th August 1945 indicate that the correct figure is more in the nature of 1350.

Of these only 248 graves have been definitely identified. 60 are Australian PoW and 188 British PoW (101 Army and 87 RAF).

A detailed report will follow by Capt G.M. Cocks of investigations carried out in the Sandakan area.

Sandakan Progress Report


No Australian or British survivors have been located in the Sandakan area, and no reports have been received of any.

Forty three (43) Indonesian survivors were located in Sandakan town. One of these died on 19th October 1945. General condition of the remainder is fair.


Sandakan Graves-tn

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Civil Cemetery:- This cemetery is located close to Sandakan Town. There are 26 graves of Australian and British personnel, 25 easily identified. These graves are marked with wooden crosses, and have metal plates attached inscribed with number, rank, name, unit and date of death. The crosses on two of the graves have rotted, and the metal plates are missing. The majority of deaths occurred in 1942.

No 1 PoW Cemetery:- Location is approximately 300 yards East of the main track to PoW Compound from Labuk Road. This cemetery contains 660 graves of Australian and British PoWs, 145 only being marked. The method of marking is similar to that used in  the Civil Cemetery, that is, wooden crosses with metal plates. The remainder are NOT marked but roiws are numbered, indicating that a plan might be in existance. A search is being carried out among Jap records with that end in view. Exhumation may be necessary.

No 2 PoW Cemetery:- This cemetery contains 253 graves of Australian and British PoWs. The majority are not marked, but 80 are marked with wooden crosses bearing number, rank, name and date of death.

Other Graves:- Reports from natives and other sources indicate that there are isolated graves in the Sandakan area, and every effort is being made to trace them. It is feared however, that these graves will not be marked in any way, and identification will be difficult.

PoW Compound - Location 9 Miles from Sandakan, between Labuk and Aerodrome Roads. All buildings have been wholly or partially dismantled or destroyed by fire, the whole area is now overgrown. A thorough search of the area commenced 19th October 1945 for records or documents and both Australian and British badges and shoulder titles were found. On further investigation Australian Paybooks, identifying discs, various other items of equipment and personal possessions which identify the owner were found.

Full Roll Of Deceased at Sandakan

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]





Britain at War


Email Arthur Lane 

In Memory of Fred Taylor,  John Weedon and Arthur Lane
Designed & Maintained by Ron Taylor.


Honorary Life Member-1tn

Honarary Life Member


[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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