Sandakan War Memorial Park Sabah Borneo

Sandakan War Memorial Park Sabah Borneo
Sandakan War Memorial or Sandakan Memorial Park is located in 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 February 1999 and 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 in Sabah

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 kilometers from Sandakan town and my tour guide - Ben, had arranged for this on a last minute request from me.

Photo Sandakan Memorial ParkSandakan Memorial Park

As we arrived at the Sandakan War Memorial Park at about 5pm just as it was about to close and as we walked in, we saw a number of 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 you once you step inside.

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

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. A total of 2,428 Australians and British POWs died at Sandakan, Ranau or on the Death Marches.

Sandakan The Big TreeThe Big Tree

As you start walking into the park, you will come across numerous plaques and notices which are 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

A polished granite memorial is 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 the Japanese occupation in Borneo.

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

WWII Excavator MalaysiaWWII 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 a number of 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 RouteDeath March Route

A statement which was 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 that 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 his visit to the Sandakan Memorial Park in Taman Rimba.

Griffin said he had heard so much about the memorial park and wanted to come and see for himself to enable him 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

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

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, we saw a book dedicated to all the soldiers who lost their lives here. 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

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 this. 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 : Catherin 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 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.
TOURS: There are various tours that are dedicated to the Death March Track in Sandakan which are organised by local and Australian tour companies. Below are some of them if you are interested. You can also contact 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 - Digger History
  2. Windows to Sandakan - ABC-Compass Video
  3. Wikipedia - Sandakan Death Marches
  4. Sandakan War Memorial by JourneyMalaysia
  5. Borneo Prisoners Of War (POW) Relatives Association of Western Australia
  6. 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.

Sandakan War Memorial Park Sabah Borneo Sandakan War Memorial Park Sabah Borneo Reviewed by Malaysia Asia on Wednesday, February 03, 2010 Rating: 5


HenRy LeE ® said...

what a write up... better than those travel and tourism webpage!

David Jr said...

Henry, thank you so much for the kind words. I try my best to be as informative as possible.


thomas said...

Oh! the old boiler,hope i will have some jobs in Sabah after my stints in Bintulu ends or will it ever ends.

David Jr 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!


David Jr 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

TSHUNZAI@davis 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!

David Jr 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.


David Jr 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!

David Jr said...

Thank you Cedric. Always a pleasure to highlight our local treasures.


neha said...

That is one of the greatest things ever.

Koh Samui trip planner

David Jr said...

Hello Neha, thank you for dropping by and great site you have there too.


David Jr 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

David Jr 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?

David Jr 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 for this matter.

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



David Jr 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.



David Jr 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.

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