No wonder I never even knew this place existed, hell I didn’t even know why it existed, the War Memorial at Kundasung explaining the Australian Holocaust.
I was sat in the front seat of our driver’s mini bus on the way back from Mt. Kinabalu national park when my mother asked “can we go and see the Australian memorial?” I misleadingly thought, ok this must be were the diggers from WWII were buried, but no. It is much more than that; it is a place that tells a story. A story so horrific it was even kept secret to the next of kin of the deceased.
As I slowly entered the memorial grounds walking up the steps I came to articles, poems, photographs, maps and more stories all about what the Australian prisoners of war had endured in Borneo.
Still not understanding the full extent and appreciating what these men went through, a young lady pleasantly asked if we would wish to view the video. “Yes, certainly” I answered, to where just myself and my family were ushered into a room with seats that sat before a TV.
Not a word from anyone was spoken as the video played, for what seemed like eternity as its gripping content stoked emotions within me as I never knew I had. The video lasted for about 25 minutes where we all sat there in complete silence, not even a cough or murmur as it sunk in that such terror and inhumane behavior had caused the death of over 1787 Australians, to which just 6 survived.
We learnt that during WWII Australian diggers became prisoners of war (POW) to the Japanese and were held in Sandakan on the eastern side of Borneo. In 1944 all these prisoners were no longer of value to the Japanese as they were to leave the main land of Borneo and kill them all off, by shooting, hanging, poisoning or whichever way possible and there was to be no one left afterwards. “Annihilate them all” were their words.
However if it were up to the soldiers, I am sure they would have chosen a bullet had they known what brutality was to come. For the remaining men were used as pack animals/slaves to aid the Japanese’s retreat through the wild jungle of Borneo, carrying supplies for only the Japanese.
It has been named the Sandakan Death March, where these men walked over 250km’s through untouched rain forest without food, water and clothes in 30 + degree heat and 100% humidity.
When the remaining POW’s reached the final destination the Japanese discovered that food had been stolen. They lined up all 30 men in a line and proclaimed that if they do not reveal who stole from them, that every solider would be shot dead where they stood.
To which the end outcome is revealed in the incredible story of one survivor who tells his tale of the horrific time he and his comrades went through, watching death and burying friend after friend.
Would love to hear what you have to say below in the comments box. Who never knew about this, who did and what are your thoughts and comments?