Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Ranau’s No. 1 Prisoner of War (POW) camp gets facelift

Dilapidated and neglected those were the words used by Australian Malcolm (Mick) Smith to describe the condition of Ranau No. 1 Prisoner of War (POW) camp before it was refurbished recently.

The original head and helmet that was once placed atop the Cleary Memorial had been missing for some time and up until recently, no effort was made to replace it. The floor was slippery, particularly during wet seasons, and dead leaves and branches were scattered all over the area.

Hence, it was no surprise that Mick, who hails from Darwin, Australia, felt saddened by what he saw when he visited the memorial years ago and from what he heard.

“On subsequent visits, a friend and I, with the help of some local people, made attempts to restore the memorial’s dignity and make it more presentable and safer for visitors,”he said.

Together with the Sabah Museum and the Australian government, the memorial site is now fully restored, and with the expert knowledge, input and assistance from the Sabah State Museum, a museum which pays homage to the prisoners of war who suffered there was also constructed.

“The place tells its story – of how they, the prisoners of war, through no fault of their own, suffered and died of the most inhumane and horrendous atrocities at the hands of others,”he said.

The site is now suitably sheltered from the elements and from falling tree branches, with ample seating for visitors. The original head and helmet have also been replaced, thanks to EBay, the online store.

I had a chance to visit the memorial, which is now termed as Ranau’s No.1 POW Camp Museum recently. It is located adjacent to the Sidang Injil Borneo (SIB) church, just after Ranau town and the district’s ‘badi’ (weekend market).

When I saw Mick, he was busy fixing a miniature replica of a war plane, which I was informed was used during the 1941–1945 Japanese occupation of Sabah, then known as North Borneo.

He explained that he had the small replica air planes made in Australia to make it easier for people, particularly school children, to absorb the information they get from the museum.