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75th anniversary of Japan's greatest single war crime against us - The Sandakan Death March. Lest We Forget.

With thanks to the Australian Military History group.

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Sandakan Death March

On the 26th of January 1945 the evacuation of the Sandakan POW camp began. Fearing an allied invasion, Japanese troops marched the allied prisoners from the camp some 260km inland to Ranau in terrible conditions. This event would go down in history as the infamous Sandakan 'Death' March.

Across three marches, the Japanese evacuated thousands of Australian and British prisoners captured after the Fall of Singapore, many of whom were either malnourished or suffering serious injury. Although the journey was meant to take 9 days, the men were only given 4 days’ worth of rations. Those who collapsed along the route from exhaustion were either killed or left to die en route. It is estimated that a total 2,434 Allied PoW were killed during the Sandakan Death March.

Of the 2,500 known Australians who were marched from Sandakan, only 6 survived having escaped during one of the three marches. During the second marches, Gunner Owen Campbell and Bombardier Richard Braithwaite managed to escape into the jungle, where they were assisted by locals and eventually rescued by Allied units. During July, Private Nelson Short, Warrant Officer William Sticpewich, Private Keith Botterill and Lance Bombardier William Moxham managed to escape from Ranau and were also helped by the local people, who fed them and hid them from the Japanese until the end of the war. Of the six survivors, only four (Sticpewich, Botterill, Short, & Campbell) survived the lingering effects of their ordeal to give evidence at various war crimes trials in both Tokyo and Rabaul.

This event is considered to be the single worst atrocity suffered by Australian servicemen during the Second World War.

Lest we forget.

Image: An incident on the Sandakan Death March is depicted in a painting at Borneo's Kundasang War Memorial

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Artwork by Pierre Seillier