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Experiences of POW's During WW11 in the Pacific: Borneo

Year 10 History

Year 10 History

The content in the resource may be confronting to users. Please consult your teacher before viewing. 

Finding Resources in Accessit

Here are some resources that you may find useful during your studies.  Search the Bennies catalogue Accessit for more, or browse the Non-fiction collection NFS.


Sandakan POW camp

After a large-scale military success during the Second World War, Japanese forces had captured large numbers of Allied soldiers as prisoners of war. These prisoners were distributed to various lock-up facilities. In July 1942, the Japanese POW camps in Sandakan received about 1,500 Australians, most of them captured from Singapore and brought here for the purpose of building a military airfield for the Japanese; this date is considered to be the beginning of the camp. In 1943, another 770 British and 500 Australian soldiers were sent to the camp. At the camp's height in 1943, about 2,500 prisoners of war were located in the camp.


During WWII, 30,000 Australian soldiers were imprisoned in Europe and the Pacific. Conditions were horrific and many didn’t survive. This programme explores confronting details about life as an Australian POW, told by Judy Monroe whose father, Ian Barker, was held captive by the Italian army for four years, later writing his memoirs at age 80. Commentary is also provided by the ANU’s Professor David Horner.


This showreel shares some of the film and sound collection material that engages with the Australian experience of being Prisoners of War under the Japanese during the Second World War. Using captured Japanese propaganda footage, official Department of Information material and personal reflections on the experience, this showreel shares a variety of perspectives. 

The thousands of Aussie soldiers, killed in Borneo in some of the worst atrocities of WWII, still haven't been given the recognition they deserve.


Over 22,000 Australians became prisoners of war of the Japanese in south-east Asia : Army (about 21,000); RAN (354); and RAAF (373). The Army prisoners were largely from the 8th Division captured at the fall of Singapore 

Australian Prisoners of War Sandakan

Australian Prisoners of War Kuching


Google Maps- Sandakan

In January 1945, the Japanese were fearful of an invasion of Borneo by Allied forces, so they began to move Australian POWs from Sandakan to Ranau, a village 160 miles to the west. The initial group of 470, none of whom were in a fit condition to march, left Sandakan daily, about 50 at a time, commencing on January 29. All suffered beriberi and malnutrition. Sixty percent were without boots or foot protection.