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AN Australian trekker says he has uncovered two new sections of track on the infamous Sandakan death march in Borneo, which would correct the preservation of one of the country’s most tragic and heroic wartime histories.
More than 2400 Australian and British prisoners of war died during World War II working on the track, where they were beaten, tortured and executed. Only six Australians escaped and survived.
The route was lost for 60 years but opened to the public in 2006. But trekker Wayne Wetherall says he has discovered two new sections after intensive research.
“The real answers for us have been actually walking through the jungle and talking to the local people, aged in their 90s now, who were the carriers,” he said.
His research also included piecing together information from the Australian Office of War Graves recovery maps, Japanese death certificates and the Australian War Memorial archives.
Sunday Mail – Brisbane
The Sandakan “Death March” is the greatest single World War 2 tragedy in Australia’s History.
Yet this story remains virtually unknown to so many.
Wayne Wetherall an expert trekker and passionate historian has uncovered the lost sections of the “Death March Track” of Sandakan, he has become a voice for the thousands of brave Aussie Men who never came home.
Australian prisoners were sent to Sandakan in 1942 to build an airstrip for the Japanese empire, there they were beaten, tortured, starved and murdered. Out of the 2434 brave young men incarcerated, 1787 were Australian of which only 6 escaped and survived.
The Original Death March route, lost for 60 years was opened in March 2006 however Wayne Wetherall, Managing Director of Sandakan Spirit, a company specialising in conducting historical tours is adamant he has now discovered the correct track.
He believes it is imperative that all Australian’s know the true facts and in respecting the courageous diggers who fought for our freedom walk the correct route.
Sabah Tourism, the Malaysian Governments tourism office, on two occasions has collaborated with Wetherall to undertake research into the correct Sandakan Death March route and establish campsites in conjunction with the local villagers along the track.
He has conducted interviews with local chiefs of the area and people who witnessed the Death Marches. He has been fortunate enough to interview Safri the Chairman of the Miruru area and Petrus the Miruru Village Chief as well as Kipas the Chief of Taviu. These men were adamant that the track ran across the Maitland Ranges between the relocated villages of Mangkadai and Miruru (Milulu) and not as it is being walked now.
During Wetherall’s visits and investigations, he also uncovered a further section of the track that had not been walked upon since the Death March 66 years ago. He will return to Sabah on August 12th 2011 to investigate this new section of track.
Nothing will stop his determination and passion to ensure that the memory and spirit of these forgotten soldiers remains alive in the minds of every Australian.
‘As the Sandakan Death March is Australia’s worst World War 2 Military tragedy it is imperative that the recording of the history of this track is correct’ says Wetherall. ‘The history and correct route that these courageous POW walked needs to be documented correctly so future generations of Australians can walk the in the footsteps of these heroes on the correct route.’
He continues ‘We also have a small window of opportunity to interview these local witnesses to this atrocity before they take their knowledge to the grave. We have a unique opportunity to two realign Australian history and to ensure that their Spirit will live forever.’
Sandakan Spirit is the first company to walk the correct route of the Sandakan Death March in 66 years.
The Sandakan Day Memorial will be held on 15 August, the day the war in the Pacific ended.