Sandakan Memorial Park was set-up to immortalize the suffering
and death of the British and Australian soldiers and other civilians that were imprisoned in Sandakan
during World War II by the Japanese army during the Japanese Occupation of Sabah in 1942 - 1945.
The prisoners are mainly transferred from Singapore where they are captured when Singapore fell
to the Japanese army. They are to be used as forced laborers to build a military airstrip in
Sandakan along with some other 4,000 Javanese slave laborers. This memorial park was officially
opened on the 15th February 1999 to remember the tragedy and atrocity done by the Japanese
Imperial army during the forced march of the prisoner from Sandakan to Ranau. In this tragic
march, which is known as the Sandakan Death March, more than 1650 Australian and 750 British
prisoners of war perished except for six Australian survivors who managed to escape during the
march between January and August 1945.
Sandakan Memorial Park was built on the exact location of the Japanese’s Sandakan prisoner of war camp (POW camp) during WWII although the size of the park is only a small fraction of the original camp area. Here, in the park, there is also a pavilion or a small museum that serves as an information centers for visitors to read about the war and to learn about the lives and suffering that the prisoner have to endure at the POW camp. The horror of the infamous Sandakan Death March was described in details here and there is also a scale model of the original POW camp. The Sandakan Death March is the forced march of the prisoners in Sandakan to Ranau which is about 150 miles (240 km) west of the camp through impenetrable jungle and treacherous routes. All together there were 3 separate marches, with the first march started in January 1945, involving the fittest and healthiest prisoners. The last march which began in March 1945 consists of the remaining prisoners. Prisoners who are too weak or sick to march were shot. There was no account of what happened after the last march as there was no survivor to tell their story as they either died from starvation, illnesses or brutalities.
Along the path on this park which is surrounded by greeneries and ponds, you can also see some wartime relics such as a rusting excavator, a generator and boiler which have been left here since the end of the war. There are also numerous plaques and inscription in the park describing in details the sad tales that took place at each of the spots. The main attraction here is a black granite obelisk which stood as a memorial to the death Australian and British POW. The motif on the obelisk portrayed a picture of three flowers to represent the suffering of the people from the three nations that was in the POW camp during WWII. The area around the obelisk is the main venue for commemorative services held annually here i.e. the Anzac Day which falls on the 25th April and the Sandakan Day which is held on the 15th August.
The Granite Obelisk
Getting There: Situated at Sibuga Forest Reserve, Jalan Labuk, Mile 7 Sandakan. The best way is to take a taxi there or by driving yourself. The park is open daily from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm.