Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Sandakan Day: Aussies urged to remember Sandakan POWs

VETERANS Affairs Minister Warren Snowdon has urged Australians to remember one of the blackest experiences of World War II, the Sandakan Death March.

Mr Snowdon said August 15 marked Sandakan Day, commemorating the 2400 Australian and British Prisoners of War (POWs) who lost their lives at the Sandakan prisoner of war camp in Borneo and in the death marches in the latter days of the Second World War.

"Sandakan Day, 15 August, is an opportunity to reflect on the immense suffering endured by Australian and British servicemen, as well as recognise the efforts of the local people who often put their own safety at risk to help the prisoners," he said in a statement.

"Today, as we mark the end of the marches, we honour the spirit and courage of the men who endured brutal conditions and for most, a tragic death."

Between January and June 1945, surviving POWs made three forced marches of more than 260 kilometres from Sandakan to Ranau POW camp.

About 500 prisoners died of illness or starvation and others were murdered by Japanese guards. The rest died at the Ranau or Sandakan camps.