The First Sandakan Memorial Day my wife & I attended was the 50th anniversary with a group of Australian army veterans & families in 1995.
The memorial then was a small white plinth, which is still there on the way to the more impressive Marble Black structure, where the ceremonies are held now for ANZAC, Sandakan & Remembrance Day.
In 1995, there were many veterans from the Australian Liberation forces, who were still alive & who had landed in Labuan in June 1945 to clear out the Japs from North Borneo & Brunei. Also attending were 4 of the 6 survivors of the tragic death marches at the end of the war.
We were lucky enough to have seen the 4 survivors in 1985, when they arrived at Kota Kinabalu Airport with their families at the same time as we had just arrived from Kuching. At that stage, very few people had heard about the Sandakan death marches. There were many photographers taking photos of them. Unfortunately, we did not.
We met Ex-Corporal Bill McDonough, who had been responsible for running the camp generator site (picture below of the actual site with Bill explaining this to my wife).
He was arrested by the Japs as part of Captain L. Mathews G.C. group (who was awarded the George Cross for being the leader & was executed). They had built a radio & planned escapes. Bill was sent to Kuching to be interrogated, tortured & then sent to the punishment cell at Outram in Singapore. Thus, he avoided being on the death marches.
We also recall a British lady laying a wreath, as she had been looking for her POW brother in Sandakan. She had been to many memorials in Singapore & Malaysia, but had not found any evidence.
The Australian Forces supplied the Honour Guard as they have each year since for ANZAC & Sandakan day services.
Datuk Mike & Datin Judy Steel.