A POW camp in Sandakan


January 23, 2022

The Sandakan POW Camp, Malay Kem Tawanan Perang Sandakan - a POW camp from the Second World War, organized by the Imperial Japanese Army near Sandakan, the capital of the British North Borneo protectorate. In the years 1942–1945, 2,850 Allied prisoners of war were sent there, including 2,026 Australians and 824 British. The prisoners of war were used as labor in the construction of a Japanese military airport. The living conditions and treatment, initially tolerable, gradually deteriorated, especially after the Kempeitai liquidated a prisoner-of-war underground in the summer of 1943. Hunger and disease spread in the camp, and the captives fell victim to the bestiality of the guards. In early 1945, the Japanese command decided to evacuate the prisoners of war to the west coast of the protectorate. Three contingents were sent deep into Borneo in January, May and June of that year, respectively. The 250-kilometer-long trail through the swamps and dense forest-covered mountains turned into "death marches", during which prisoners died en masse either of exhaustion or at the hands of the guards. Those who managed to survive only made it to Ranau, where nearly all of them died or were murdered by the Japanese. The prisoners unable to walk were left in Sandakan, where they all died of starvation and disease, or were killed by the guards. Of the 2,434 prisoners who were in the camp and did not leave the camp by the time the "death marches" began, only six Australians survived - they were only refugees. The remaining prisoners died in Sandakan, during the "death marches" or in makeshift camps in Ranau. Moreover, before January 1945, 408 Allied soldiers were transferred to other camps and prisons, and another eight successfully escaped. Out of this number, 241 prisoners managed to survive the war.


On February 15, 1942, General Tomoyuki Yamashita accepted the unconditional surrender of the Singapore garrison. About 70,000 were in Japanese captivity. allied soldiers. Among them were 14,860 Australians, mostly soldiers from the 8th AIF Infantry Division. Two days later, the POWs marched to the newly created POW camps. Indian soldiers were detained in the western part of the island, while white-skinned prisoners of war were transferred to the Changi Peninsula in its eastern part, on the site of the former British military base. Australians were placed in the Selarang barracks, previously occupied by soldiers from the Gordon Highlanders regiment. After a few months, the Japanese decided to use prisoners of war on a larger scale as forced labor. Special contingents were formed and then dispatched to Japan or to various locations within the Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Zone. The first contingent, called Force A, was sent to Burma in May 1942. On July 4, 1942, the Japanese demanded that another Australian contingent be organized within three days, this time numbering 2,000. soldiers. By this time, however, the number of "Diggers" imprisoned in Changi had already been significantly reduced, so the Japanese were forced to agree to reduce the contingent by a quarter. Ultimately, Force B included 1,494 Australians, including 143 officers and 312 NCOs. The contingent was divided into three "battalions", marked with the letters D, E and F. Only 40% of the prisoners came from combat units, the rest of the contingent were soldiers from auxiliary and rear formations or convalescents. Two civilians have also joined Force B: Ronald Hamilton Wilson (representative of the Australian Red Cross) and H. J. Fleming (a member of the Salvation Army, performing administrative functions at the 2/10 sanitary unit

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