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Sandakan Day – The 75th Anniversary Sabah Borneo

Sandakan Day – The 75th Anniversary Sabah Borneo.

The Sandakan Day Memorial Service marked on Aug 15 continues to bring Australia, Britain and the people of Sabah closer together by the year.

The annual service is held to remember the more than 2,400 Australian and British prisoners-of-war (POW) who lost their lives while incarcerated at the Sandakan POW Camp and during the infamous death marches to Ranau in 1945 during WWII.

By early 1942 the Japanese had cut a swathe through Malaya, culminating in the calamitous fall of Singapore, and capturing thousands of Allied troops - nearly 15,000 Australians among them. They were held in prisoner of war compounds at Changi, on the eastern side of Singapore. The Japanese viewed their prisoners as a powerful pool of dirt-cheap labour, and from here the men were dispatched to wherever the Japanese war effort needed them. In July of 1942, a large group of Australian prisoners, known as B Force, was sent to Sandakan in what was then known as British North Borneo.

Between 1942 and 1943, about 2,700 Allied servicemen passed through the gates of the Sandakan Camp. However, a number were transferred during 1943 and 1944, leaving 1,793 Australians and 641 British. In the dying days of the war, as defeat of the Japanese Army was imminent, most of the prisoners who remained in the camp were sent on three separate forced marches. These became known as death marches. Only six Australians, all escapees from the marches, eventually returned home. Not a single British soldier survived.

In 2020 the 75th anniversary of Sandakan Day will be remembered with a very special Commemorative Service at the Sandakan Memorial Park and we will be there for a special wreath laying. Why not join us on the third largest island in the world as we embark on our 11 Day tour of Sabah Borneo combining this very special day along with all that Sabah North Borneo has to offer. 


After flying into the state capital of Kota Kinabalu we are given a warm greeting by our friendly English-speaking guide before transferring to our 5-star accommodation. Edging the waterfront and offering stunning sea and city views, Le Méridien is an urban sanctuary in the beating heart of Kota Kinabalu's central business, retail and entertainment district.

Our first day provides us with a nostalgic rail journey on a steam train straight out of the 1900s, featuring five fully refurbished colonial-style carriages that can accommodate a total of 180 passengers. Along the way, we get to soak in the green vistas of sprawling paddy fields, traditional village homes on stilts and buffaloes ambling in the distance. On board, we are treated to a rare delight, a tiffin-style lunch. This evening we experience local cuisine and a culture show.

It’s now time to get up close and personal with the amazing fauna and flora of Borneo as we travel across to Sandakan. Our close encounters will take place at the Sepilok Orang Utan Rehabilitation Centre, Bornean Sun Bear Conservation Centre, Rainforest Discovery Centre, Labuk Bay Proboscis Monkey Sanctuary and while cruising along the mighty Kinabatangan River.

The Kinabatangan is home to Borneo’s ‘Big Five’, Bornean Pygmy Elephant, Rhinoceros Hornbill, Estuarine Crocodile, Orang Utan & Proboscis Monkey.

While still on the east coast we pay visits to The English Tea House, Agnes Keith’s House Museum and St. Michael’s & All Angels Church featuring the beautiful stained-glass windows donated by Australia to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the end of WWII.

Back on the west coast our full day tour today takes us up to Mount Kinabalu to the Sabah Tea Plantation in Ranau. Although breathtaking, our journey today is also one of heartbreak as we pay our respects at the Ranau POW Camp Site and make a heartfelt stop at the beautiful Kundasang War Memorial and Gardens (Australian Garden, British Garden, Borneo Garden and Contemplation Garden.

Our second last day takes us across to Labuan Island, home to the Commonwealth WW11 Cemetery and home to 3,908 graves of soldiers mostly Australian and British who passed away at either the POW Camp’s, Death Marches or in battle. We also visit Surrender Point where the 32nd Japanese Southern Army surrendered to the 9th Division Australian Imperial Forces on 9th September 1945 which led to the end of World War II in Borneo.

Kota Kinabalu provides many cultural sites, culinary delights and shopping experiences at both the waterfront and street markets plus then boutique shops. So why not join us on this remarkable pilgrimage to Sabah Borneo in August 2020.      

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