Where the Death March ended
Published on: Sunday, August 23, 2009
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Kota Kinabalu: Until now, nobody has been able to pinpoint where exactly the Sandakan-to-Ranau Death March ended that sealed the fate of 2,428 Australian and British Prisoners Of War towards the closing stages of the war. Most assume it is at the War Memorial site in Ranau, at least because that's where the remembrance events are held.

The Daily Express can now reveal where this historic spot is and which had been a best kept secret for 64 years!

The Japanese captors may have intended so in the first place. Because they picked a remote primeval jungle campsite where no Allied bombers can spot them.

Indeed, this mystery spot, called the "Second Jungle Camp" did escape air raids even though Allied planes were bombing Ranau left, right and center by June 1945, including the use of napalm bombs.

The best tip of its whereabouts is at the confluence of the Kenipir tributary and head of the Liwagu River, five miles south of Ranau.

To cut the story short, there were three separate marches set out in Sandakan. Jungle Camp 2 was created to receive the second march which started out with 536 PoWs on 29 May 1945 but only 183 arrived alive on June 10. Six weeks later all but 33 had died. All were eventually executed, including the last 15 who were shot on 27 August 1945, almost two weeks after Japan had surrendered on 14 August.

Lynette Silver, author of the book entitled "Sandakan - A Conspiracy of Silence" had known the site for years based on information found in old Australian Army maps.

But she had trouble providing absolute proof to many doubting 'Thomases' both locally and in Australia. It was then decided to run a metal detector across the vast campsite.

Just as they were about to pack up and go home on 20 August 2008, after a two-day probe, the metal detector screamed with frantic beeps at a most unlikely edge on the bank of the Liwagu River. There they unearthed stacks of brass buckles of kit bag - irrefutable proof that Australian troops had housed here.

Then came the absolute proof - a black brass button pressed with the words "Australian Military Forces" around a map of Australia and Crown atop.

Most astonishingly, even the brass shank and wire at the back used to fasten the button on the Australian Army tunic, had remained intact! (See reports on Pages 7, 9 and 10).

It is now left to the experts to find out what else the area would reveal and which would undoubtedly become a "must visit" site for many future generations of the war dead.


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