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Reflection on Sandakan Remembrance Day
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Reflection on Sandakan Remembrance Day

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A word document regarding Sandakan

A word document regarding Sandakan

Published in: Education, News & Politics
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  • 1. Colonel Mark Hainge Military and Air Advisor to the British High CommissionUK MA reflection on the Australian and British suffering in the Sandakanprisoner of war camp in Japanese-occupied Borneo during World War II,Sandakan Remembrance Day, Fri 27, May 2011, Australian WarMemorial.To us in the UK, Sandakan isn’t a forgotten story – it’s just that no one cameback to tell it.Nearly two and a half thousand Australian and British prisoners of war wereimprisoned by the Japanese at Sandakan. Of these, only six Australianssurvived the infamous Sandakan Death Marches, which became a byword forbrutal cruelty.Servicemen from our two nations suffered unimaginably during the course ofthose marches. Overloaded with rice and ammunition for their captors andforced to walk, often barefoot, the two hundred and sixty kilometres fromSandakan to Ranau, those who fell behind on the marches were beheaded orshot – or worse. Systematic beatings and starvation took their inevitable tollon the remainder. Yet, despite these appalling conditions, six men escaped.One of those who survived the Death March said afterwards, “…if the blokesjust couldn’t go on we shook hands with them and said, you know, hopeeverything’s all right. But they knew what was going to happen. There wasnothing you could do.”…There was nothing you could do…But even knowing that the situation they found themselves in was hopeless,these men - almost incredibly - managed to keep a faint hope alive in theirhearts. And that tenuous, fragile yet unutterably tough tendril of hope wasenough to secure their spirits so that when a fleeting chance to escapepresented itself to a lucky few, they were able to take it.And so, as we commemorate today all those of our countrymen, Australianand British alike, who suffered and died alongside each other on theSandakan Death Marches, let us also commemorate that triumph of the spirit,of the indomitable will to survive that does not give up, that never quits – eventhough there is nothing you can do. Sometimes all that is left to you is torefuse to give up. And sometimes, that is enough.

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