Along Jalan Tanjung Batu, where locals would pass by indifferently on their tooting motorcycles and zooming cars, lie 3,908 soldiers in perfectly squared platoons, much like how they would stand in salutation when they were alive. These soldiers were from all over: Australia, Great Britain, India, New Zealand and even Malaysia.
The POWs of Sandakan, the perished war heroes of the Australian 7th and 9th Divisions, as well as those of the Punjab Signal Corp and a few locals were all buried here today at the WWII Memorial in Labuan, which was officiated by the Australian government in June 1953.
The bodies were shipped in from Sabah, some with their military tags still glimmering around their necks. Of the 3,908 of them, 2,156 were unidentified. The identified burials number 1,752 of which 1,523 are soldiers, 220 airmen, 5 sailors and 4 civilians (consist of 814 British, 858 Australians, 1 New Zealander, 43 Indian and 36 Malayan). Another 34 Indian soldiers, whose remains were cremated, are commemorated on a memorial in the India Army.
They were all given a white headstone each with their names, military positions and death ages engraved on it. Poignant messages from their family members still resonate today with heavy heartaches that would dwell tears in the eyes. The 2,156 war heroes were also given a similar engrave of ‘Known unto God’ – while their bravery may not be known on earth, but they never be forgotten in the eyes of God. The Cross of Sacrifice stood in the middle of the memorial ground.