Sandakan War Memorial Park Sabah

Borneo Sandakan War Memorial Park
The Sandakan War Memorial or Sandakan Memorial Park is located on the outskirts of Sandakan, Sabah Borneo.

The site is just next to the actual POW (Prisoners of War) camp, which was set up during the World War Two Japanese Occupation from 1942 to 1945, which witnessed the death of 2400 Australian and British POW held by the Japanese here.

This war memorial was officially opened on the 15th of February 1999. The memorial park is dedicated to the men who lost their lives in the Borneo Death Marches during the Second World War.

Sandakan War Memorial Park Sabah

Sabah War Memorial Park
One of the ponds at the Sandakan War Memorial Park
On my trip to Sandakan in Dec 2009 to visit and document places of interest, I made it a point to stop over here for a visit as I had also visited the Kundasang War Memorial a couple of years back.

Getting to the Sandakan War Memorial Park was quite easy as it is located 11 kilometres from Sandakan town, and my tour guide - Ben, had arranged for this on the last minute request from me.

Photo Sandakan Memorial ParkSandakan Memorial Park

As we arrived at the Sandakan War Memorial Park at about 5.00 pm just as it was about to close and as we walked in, we saw several locals there who utilized this park for their evening walks and exercise.

A beautiful pond filled with water lilies will be the first thing you see once you step inside the park.

Walkways throughout park

Well-manicured lawns and concrete pathways show that the place has been looked after with much care. It was an easy walk through the park but do bring mosquito repellent in case.

Sandakan Memorial Park information

History of the Sandakan Memorial Park

In 1942, 2700 British and Australian soldiers were transported from Singapore to Sandakan and set to work building an airstrip.

By early 1945 many had died, but the surviving 1800 Australians and 600 British troops were force-marched to Ranau by the Japanese, where they were to start work on a new project.

Just six soldiers, all Australian, survived the 240-kilometre march through mud and jungle in which two of the six escaped into the jungle during the second march in June 1945.

Assisted by local people, they were eventually picked by Allied units. The other four escaped from Ranau in July and again, with the help of local people, were fed and hidden from the Japanese until the end of the War.

In total, 2,428 Australians and British POWs died at Sandakan, Ranau and during the Death Marches.

Sandakan The Big TreeThe Big Tree

As you start walking into the park, you will come across numerous plaques and notices dedicated to this place.

Stop and read them as they will tell you in detail about what happened at each of the spots.

Sandakan Memorial Plaque SabahSandakan Memorial Plaque

There is a huge polished granite memorial located within the original boundary of the POW camp. Near the memorial stood the famous ‘big tree’ and the camp guardhouse.

Also beside the big tree was the ‘cage’ in which many prisoners suffered brutal punishments during Borneo's Japanese occupation.

WWII Boiler MalaysiaWWII Boiler at the park

Remains of a World War Two boiler are seen along the walk around the park. Walking around the park would take you about 45 minutes to an hour.

The path goes one big round where you will see remnants of the camp that are scattered around the grounds of the park along your walk.

Malaysia WWII ExcavatorWWII Excavator on display at the park

A World War Two excavator is also on display along the park walk. Aside from the two items here, there are some other remains of the original POW camp here.

One was a kitchen area, and there was a water storage unit just next to the mini-museum.

Sandakan Death March Route
The Sandakan Death March route
A plaque with some information about the death march

A statement published Dec 16th, 2008 - Australian Minister for Veterans’ Affairs Alan Griffin ranks the Sandakan Memorial Park as one of the very best among the memorials built to remember fallen Australian soldiers he has visited.

“I have been to a lot of memorials around the world, and this centre ranks one of the very best. I am very pleased with what I have seen here,” Griffin told reporters after visiting the Sandakan Memorial Park in Taman Rimba.

Griffin said he had heard so much about the memorial park and wanted to see for himself to improve his understanding of what took place here.

Sandakan War Memorial Commemorative Pavilion SabahSandakan War Memorial Commemorative Pavilion

Located within the park is a small museum or commemorative pavilion where the inside is filled with wall-mounted displays of documented accounts of the prisoners' lives at the camp plus text panels, maps, and photographs that tell the story of the Sandakan POW camp and the ‘death marches’ to Ranau.

Details of the death camp mounted on the walls

Death Camp model at Sandakan War Memorial Park SabahDeath Camp model at Sandakan War Memorial Park

An intricate model of the actual POW camp is also displayed in one section of the mini-museum showing you the actual camp details.

Sandakan atrocity story SabahThe Sandakan atrocity story

Death March POW Camp at SandakanThe 6 Australian soldiers that survived the POW Camp at Sandakan

Memorial Book for the soldiers

On exiting the mini-museum at the park, we saw a book dedicated to all the soldiers who lost their lives.

Pictures of soldiers with notes from loved ones were attached to the many pages of this memorial book. Informative flyers are also available here, so check with the attendant if you cannot find any.

Map of all the POW Camps throughout AsiaA map of all the POW Camps throughout Asia

Anzac Day Sandakan Sabah

Finally, an official Anzac Day Ceremony is held here every year in memory of the Australian, British and New Zealanders who suffered and died in this area.

Please check with your local travel agents if you are interested in participating in this event held every year.

Also, to commemorate those who died and suffered the terrible atrocities, relatives and friends in Australia have initiated August 15 as the Sandakan Memorial Day.

Address for Sandakan War Memorial Park:

Sandakan Memorial Park
Mile 8, Jalan Labuk Utara,
Taman Rimba, Sandakan,
Sabah Malaysia

Contact information:
Sandakan Municipal Council
Contact Person: Catherine Chua
Telephone: +60 89 275400, 224026, 013 8869668
Fax: +60 89 274659, 272112

Opening hours for the Sandakan War Memorial Park: 9am to 5pm Daily

Entrance Fee: Free

Getting to the Sandakan War Memorial Park:
  • Taxi from town - About RM30 (US$8.00) both ways, including waiting time. Takes about 15 minutes to drive there and do negotiate.
  • Self-drive - Rent a car and get directions there.
  • By Bus - Take a "Batu 8" bus to the Esso petrol station at the airport roundabout, then walk along Jalan Rimba for five to ten minutes until you see the park.
  • Optionally you can arrange for a tour here with one of the local tour companies in Sandakan town.
Sandakan Death March Tours: There are various tours dedicated to the Death March Track in Sandakan, organized by local and Australian tour companies.

Below are some of them if you are interested. You can also contact the Sabah Tourism Board's information centre for more information. 
For more information on the Sandakan War Memorial Park, I have compiled a few links below;
  1. Sandakan Death Marches
  2. Windows to Sandakan - ABC-Compass Video
  3. Wikipedia - Sandakan Death Marches
  4. Borneo Prisoners Of War (POW) Relatives Association of Western Australia
  5. Links to other sites that include Borneo POW

The memorial at Sandakan happens every year, and if you are interested, you should contact the relevant people in charge of this. 

Every year there will be people from Australia and New Zealand to pay respects to those who served their country at the Sandakan War Memorial Park in Sabah.

Malaysia Asia

Blogging since 2007, but writing online since 1997. I belong to the 1st generation of worldwide bloggers, which is of course old-school. Since 2008, I created Malaysia Asia and this travel, flood, gadget and lifestyle blog has won numerous physical awards from tourism boards around Malaysia. (Not those online awards). After 12 years of blogging, I have semi-retired and now blog about things I like, do product reviews and enjoy life. My work has been featured in Lonely Planet, CNN Travel, Yahoo Travel, Wall Street Journal, and many other international publications. Find out more about me and thank you.


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