The small town of Kundasang is located in the district of Ranau, approximately 6km from Kinabalu National Park Headquarters. Kundasang is a sleepy, peaceful town that has been the centre of so much of Sabah’s history!
The town was the ending site of the horrifying ‘death marches’ from Sandakan (on Sabah’s east coast) to Ranau (West anterior of Sabah). During WWII’s Japanese invasion, prisoners of war were forced by gunpoint to work on the construction of a military airstrip (now Sandakan airport) and the Sandakan POW base camp (now Sandakan War Memorial).
The POWs were forced, with brutal treatment, to walk through marshlands and dense jungle terrain to carry supplies to other Japanese battalions located in the Western anterior of Sabah and Jesselton (now Kota Kinabalu).
Prisoners marched without proper footwear to protect their feet, or were completely barefoot! On the route of the first ‘death march’, exhaustion, starvation or dysentery and other maladies from no medical attention claimed hundreds of deaths; out of 470 prisoners, 5 Australians and 1 British survived!
In the aftermath, six Australian servicemen managed to escape their ordeal. The most touching part this history of Sabah, is how the POWs may not have survived without the assistance of locals from the surrounding area.
In total the death marches claimed the lives of 2,428 brave British, Australian and local prisoners. They are commemorated at the Kundasang War Memorial which is open to the public daily and well worth a visit.
In 1962, Kinabalu National Park opened to the public to coincide with the opening of the Kundasang War Memorial. Four beautiful gardens inside the memorial symbolise the nationalities of the war heroes who served to fight against the Japanese occupation, the Australian Garden, the English Garden, the Borneo Garden and the Contemplation Garden and pool. The smell of fresh roses fills the air.
Very tastefully designed the entrance itself is a corrugated-iron gate in a stone archway – reminiscent of British colonial influence.
Located at the highest point of the Kundasang War Memorial fort, the Contemplation garden is designed with a row of white columns either side of the Reflection Pool. The cool climate offers a serene and relaxing atmosphere to remember the ‘death marches’, and the setting is truly beautiful and picturesque with a panoramic view of Mount Kinabalu!
Visitors need to allow approximatley 2 hours to visit the memorial. Upon arrival a short video is presented to educate visitors, diary extracts & photographs from the brave men are preserved and on display. Walking through the gardens is a very thought provoking and emotional journey. A visit can be included within our Kinabalu Park Day Trip, please plan this with your travel consultant.
Lest We Forget!