Military relics reveals life and death of the Sandakan Death Marches

Archaeology doesn’t necessarily have to go way back thousands of years to understand the lives and times of people who lived before – sometimes it’s as recent as World War II, as revealed by a cache of Australian military relics unearthed in Sabah. They are the grim remnants of the infamous Sandakan Death Marches, which led to the death of some 6,000 military personnel and civilians.


Unearthed: a final message from Sandakan’s doomed soldiers
Sydney Morning Herald, 22 September 2008
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By the time the button and other relics were buried 63 years ago, the burial party would have harboured no hopes of survival, or rescue, or of anyone in the outside world knowing where they were. They knew that people who came to this remote place were doomed to die. This place was the last camp.

A few months earlier in 1945, the Japanese high command had ordered that no prisoners survive the war. With Allied forces nearing Sandakan, the Japanese ordered prisoners to march 265 kilometres to Ranau.


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Author: Noel Tan

Dr Noel Hidalgo Tan is the Senior Specialist in Archaeology at SEAMEO-SPAFA, the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Archaelogy and Fine Arts.

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