Ranau - Borneo

Ranau – Borneo

Towards the end of the war, Ranau stood witness to the infamous Sandakan Death Marches. As the war ground on, conditions at Sandakan deteriorated. In late January 1945 the Japanese decided to move 455 of the fittest prisoners o Jesselton (Kota Kinabalu) to work as coolie labourers – only to halt them at Ranau, owing to Allied air activity on the west coast, by June, only 6 remained alive in Ranau. The second march of 536 prisoners began on 29 May 1945. Along the way, two prisoners managed to escape into the jungle and later saved by the Allied units with the help of locals. Only 183 prisoners reached the Ranau camp on 24 June 1945. Another four prisoners successfully fled the camp and led to safety by a native teenager who found them hiding in the jungle along a river. They were also rescued by Allied paratroopers later.

In June 1945, the Japanese captors moved with the prisoners 8.3 km (5.2 mi) south of Ranau to a second jungle camp near the Kenipir River to escape from the air raids of napalm bombs by the Allied planes. By August 1945, all survivors of the marches were killed.

By the end of the war, of all the prisoners who had been incarcerated at Sandakan and Ranau, only six Australians survived, 3 of the 72 soldiers from the 2/4th survived. WX 9384 Lt John Campbell Morrison and WX 10363 Lt Alexander Brian Walton, as officers, were sent from Sandakan to Batu Lintang Camp at Kuching. WX227 Pte Alfred Stevens was sentenced to 6 years solitary confinement at Outram Rd Prison Singapore for escaping.

It is widely considered to be the single worst atrocity suffered by Australian servicemen during the Second World War.

Location of Ranau - Borneo