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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.

Post a Comment


Henry Lee said…
what a write up... better than those travel and tourism webpage!
Malaysia Asia said…
Henry, thank you so much for the kind words. I try my best to be as informative as possible.

Oh! the old boiler,hope i will have some jobs in Sabah after my stints in Bintulu ends or will it ever ends.
Malaysia Asia said…
Thomas, I hope you get some jobs in Sabah as well. There is too much to see and do in Sabah. Good luck!

Carmen, thank you very much for your kid words and support. I will do my best in providing the best articles I can.

shloke said…
I'm not really a fan of war memorials, but this is an impressive write-up. Very informative!

Malaysia Asia said…
Thank you very much Mylo. I try to give as much info as possible.

Tekkaus said…
A great getaway place and one which is nostalgic too. :D
v3 said…
good job.. nice post
Unknown said…
From Sandakan......Nice post....XD
Anonymous said…
I did not visit the war memorial when I was in Sandakan. No time.

Yes, lest people forget and start re-writing history!
Malaysia Asia said…
Tekkaus, it is worth the visit when you are in Sandakan. I understand that many relatives of the soldiers from AUS make visits there yearly.

V3 - Thank you very much

Tshunzai - Thanks for dropping by from Sandakan! I live your city for the seafood and nature! All you need is a McDs and 7-11 there :)

Mei - Aww, maybe on your next visit there? Anyway, it's a short drive from town and the park is really nice there.

Malaysia Asia said…
Thank you Shenandoa, Sabah does have a few of these memorials and they are all well maintained. Watch for my next article on another of the memorials.

Anonymous said…
Gald to see your are promoting Sandakan a good place to visit!
Malaysia Asia said…
Thank you Cedric. Always a pleasure to highlight our local treasures.

Unknown said…
That is one of the greatest things ever.

Koh Samui trip planner
Malaysia Asia said…
Hello Neha, thank you for dropping by and great site you have there too.

Malaysia Asia said…
Travel for less - thank you very much. We hope that this year, more people will visit Malaysia.

catherin said…
Thank you for promoting the Sandakan Memorial Park. The 4th ANZAC Day Dawn Service was held on 25th April at the park...attended by many families of POWs, veterans and a son of 1 of the 6 survivors. Channel 7 Australia and ASTRO recorded the service and ABC Radio Australia also carried the interviews with some of the POWs/local heroes's family members.

ANZAC Day Dawn Service on 25 April @ 5.30 am and Sandakan Day service on 15 August @7.00 am is now attracting more guests every year.

By the way, please be informed that my telephone contact is no longer 089-224026 but 089-273753.

Keep up your good work! Lest We Forget.

Catherin Chua
Malaysia Asia said…
Hello Catherine and thank you for your lovely message with information to the ANZAC Day services. Also the update on your phone number.

Anonymous said…
I have been requested by a family to try and obtain a photo etc of a Great Uncle that is buried at Sandakan. Is this possible and what is the cost?
Malaysia Asia said…
Hello Anon, I think the best would be to contact the Sandakan council or one of the Memorial reps in my contact to do this. I am based in Kuala Lumpur and not there.

catherin said…
Annonymous, you may write to Charlotte.Sarossy@dva.gov.au for this matter.

For your information, all bodies at the park have been moved to the commonwealth graveyard at Labuan.


Malaysia Asia said…
Hello Catherin, thanks for pointing this out. Great information. I hope to meet you when I head to Sandakan again later this October.

catherin said…
Hi David, it's my pleasure to be of assistance.

Please do let me know what date you'll b coming in October, I'll be delighted to meet you too.


Malaysia Asia said…
Catherin - Sandakan Day is just around the corner for 2011. I was in Sandakan early this month but had to move to Telupid and then KK. I will most probably make another visit to SDK in October.