Sunday, August 16, 2015

Sandakan Memorial Day - A war we can never forget

SANDAKAN: The friendship between Malaysia and Australia has in part been shaped by the common and bitter experience of war, said Governor-General of Australia Sir Peter Cosgrove.

He said that what happened at the Sandakan prisoners’ camp site in the last months of World War II would continue to matter.

“It is a war we can never forget, a war we will never forget” Cosgrove said, here yesterday.

Between 1942 and 1943, the Japanese shipped approximately 2,700 Australia and British prisoners of war from Singapore to Sandakan to build a military airstrip.

In 1945, the Japanese were concerned that Allied troops might land in the Sandakan and decided to move their prisoners, most of whom were sick and injured to Ranau which is 260 kilometres away.

“Almost 2,500 Australian and British PoW were forced to march more than 250 kilometers inland to Ranau. Those too ill to walk were killed by their captors or left to die; those who fell during the march were killed. Only six survived the Death March” he said.

During that time, brave locals established a resistance named North Borneo Volunteer Force and helped the prisoners.

Six of the prisoners survived as they hid and were looked after by local villagers.

“Australia is forever grateful to them for the support showed to those in captivity. At great personal risk, these brave men and women participated in the resistance, aided those in captivity and sheltered the few who managed to escape.

“Their example of courage and humanity is a story to tell our children and we remember them as just as we remember our own,” he said during the 70th Sandakan Memorial Day, yesterday morning.