Sandakan war dead commemorated

Media release

5 November 2012

Foreign Minister Bob Carr commemorated the deaths of around 2,400 Australian and British soldiers held as prisoners of war (POW's) in Sandakan, Malaysia, between 1942 and 1945 with a wreath-laying ceremony at Sandakan Memorial Park.

Foreign Minister Bob Carr laid the wreath on behalf of Australia and was accompanied by President of the Sandakan Municipal Council, Datuk James Wong.

Senator Carr said the experiences of Australian POWs was as much a part of our national identity and tradition as Gallipoli or the Western Front.

"All the remaining records attest that Australian mateship was at the heart of the experience of our prisoners of war, and it was critical to the survival of those who lived to the end of the War.

"We owe the duty of remembrance to the Australians who perished at Sandakan and in similar captivity across the region, in all wars, but particularly in that great struggle between 1939 and 1945," Senator Carr said.

The Sandakan Memorial Park is on the site of the Sandakan prisoner of war camp in Sabah, Malaysia. Between 1942 and 1943 occupying Japanese forces shipped around 2,700 Australian and British prisoners of war from Singapore to Sandakan, with 300 prisoners later moved to another camp in Sarawak.

The Sandakan prisoner of war camp was the starting point for the "death marches" of 1945. Of those imprisoned at Sandakan, only six men – all Australians – survived. In all, 1,787 Australian soldiers died at the camps and on the marches.

An estimated 16 per cent of the population of Sabah also lost their lives during the three years of wartime military occupation.

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