Monday, November 02, 2009

Sandakan Death March: Remembering the heroes whose lives we live today

The recent Durian Fest in Kundasang Ranau which coincided with the International Climbathon at Kinabalu Parks attracted a fair crowd. Besides the usual haggling found in any traditional market, people were also looking at the Kundasang War Memorial sited just nearby the shophouses. A tourist attraction, it is a fort-like structures with Gardens situated on a hill overlooking the village of Kundasang.

The broodingly somber fort actually boasts well tended gardens visited by people who pose for photographs among the flowers.

During my brief meanderings around the grounds, I realize that only some sit quietly and ponder on the history behind this memorial or to wonder at this testimony of anguish and pain inflicted by humans on their fellow sapiens.

For it commemorates the Sandakan Death March which was a series of forced marches from Sandakan to Ranau by prisoners of war (PoW). Pushed forward beyond their endurance, the Japanese marched them to their death.

According to history, more than 3,600 Indonesian civilian slave labourers and 2,400 Allied PoW died in the marches. Only six Australians survived and even then it was because they had managed to escape.

The first series of marches occurred between January and March 1945. Four hundred and seventy prisoners were chosen to carry Japanese provisions for the conquering army who were relocating to the west coast. They reached Ranau but only five Australians and one British soldier survived.

The second wave occurred on May 29 1945 where 536 prisoners were marched off under the command of a Japanese captain. The prisoners were grouped by 50’s each, every group accompanied by Japanese guards. Twenty six days later only 183 prisoners reached Ranau and met with the remaining six from the first march.

Continue reading at: Sandakan Death March: Remembering the heroes whose lives we live today

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