Sandakan Death Marches

Sandakan Death Marches

Sandakan Death Marches

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The Sandakan Death Marches were a series of forced marches in Borneo from Sandakan to Ranau which resulted in the deaths of more than 3,600 Indonesian civilian slave labourers and 2,400 Allied prisoners of war held captive by the Empire of Japan during the Pacific campaign of World War II at prison camp in North Borneo. By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived, all of whom had escaped. It is widely considered to be the single worst atrocity suffered by Australian servicemen during the Second World War.

Constructing the airstrip

In 1942 and 1943, Indonesian civilians imported from Java, along with Australian and British POWs who had been captured at the Battle of Singapore in February 1942, were shipped to North Borneo in order to construct a military airstrip and POW camp at Sandakan, North Borneo (Sabah). As on the Burma Railway the prisoners were forced to work at gunpoint, and were often beaten whilst also receiving very little food or medical attention. In August 1943, with the intention of controlling the enlisted men by removing any commanders, most officer prisoners were moved from Sandakan to the Batu Lintang camp at Kuching. Conditions for the remaining prisoners deteriorated sharply following the officers’ removal. Any rations given were further reduced, and sick prisoners were also forced to work on the airstrip....
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