Sandakan: the story that must be told

16/04/2014 08:11

ArtGeo Gallery is proud to host a travelling exhibition that commemorates one of WWII’s saddest and most haunting stories – the Sandakan experience.

Entitled Sandakan: The Story that Must Be Told, this poignant exhibition tells the story of the internment of Australian and Allied soldiers in Borneo during the Second World War.

Through a collection of historical Australian War Memorial photographs, documents, newspaper cuttings and memorabilia, the story of the forced marches from the internment camp in Sandakan to Ranau and the inhumane living conditions that resulted in the death of over 2400 prisoners of war is explored. Of those soldiers who experienced two notorious death marches in 1945, six Australians were the only ones to escape to tell the tale and give evidence in the War Crimes Trials.

The plight of these soldiers and the subsequent impact on their families has only recently been brought to public attention with the lifting of a 50 year Australian Government embargo in 1995. Now close to 70 years later the Sandakan story is being told. This powerful exhibition has been created by the Borneo Exhibition Group – a self-funded Western Australian volunteer group. This group embarked on a community education program in 2003 through this travelling exhibition and a scholarship which is offered to Australian High Schools and Overseas Youth Development Groups.

 The City of Busselton has sponsored the exhibition to ensure its showing in the South West. Acting Mayor Grant Henley said: “This exhibition captures an important but little known episode in the last World War. While the exhibition is confronting, those soldiers suffered a cruel fate and we owe it to them to tell their story.”

A dramatic 12 metre mural forms a centrepiece of the Sandakan exhibition.  It was painted by Mrs Non Meston Cadgwan in memory of her father and other allied POWs who died in the camps and on the marches.  The exhibition also pays homage to the brave liberation soldiers and locals who died in the cause of freedom. Visitors are welcome to lay wreaths at a blessing site at the end of the mural.

Sandakan: the story that must be told has toured throughout Western Australia and it will now be seen at ArtGeo Gallery, Queen Street, Busselton from the 15 April to 11 May, 2014. ArtGeo is open daily from 10am till 4pm, but closed Good Friday. Entry is free and everyone is welcome.