Lindisfarne students trek through jungles of Borneo

Lindisfarne students making their way through the jungles of Borneo.
Lindisfarne students making their way through the jungles of Borneo. Contributed

NO ONE can ever really know how allied prisoners of war suffered when they died in the jungles of Borneo through Second World War.

But a group of 16 students, teachers and parents from Lindisfarne Anglican Grammar School had a taste of it when they spent 12 days in Borneo on a Walking in the Footsteps of our Heroes trek.

Many hundreds of prisoners died on the jungle tracks between Sandakan and Ranau now known as the infamous Death Marches.

Renowned historian and leading authority on Second World War history of Sandakan and the death marches, Lynette Silver accompanied the group for the duration in Borneo.

She and her husband Neil shared their knowledge and experience, facilitating all logistical arrangements for the group.

The journey started in Sandakan with a visit to the stone, heritage-listed St Michael's Church with its magnificent stained glass Windows of Remembrance.

It was here that many of the prisoners of war spent the night before they walked to the Sandakan camp.

The campsite is now a peaceful memorial park, which commemorates the sacrifice and suffering endured by both Australian and British soldiers who were held by the Japanese as prisoners of war between 1942 and 1945.

Each member of the Lindisfarne group walked in honour a prisoner of war.

Throughout the trek, each POW's story was shared with the group in an emotional and poignant ceremony at the location where they died.

Memorial services were held at beautiful Kundasang War Memorial, at the Last Camp at Ranau and at Labuan Island off the coast of Brunei where the POWs are buried in the Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery.

"The service at Kundasang War Memorial was particularly moving as it is located beneath the imposing Mount Kinabalu, the highest mountain in South East Asia, which rises to a height of 4095.2m," a spokeswoman for the group said.

"Local legend says spirits of the dead ascend to its summit, protected by the clouds that envelop it.

"It is also said that if someone, who understands and respects this belief, undertakes an historical pilgrimage along the death march route to Mt Kinabalu, the spirit of one of the POWs will be liberated, to leave the protection of the mountain peak and return home."

Each member was entrusted with symbolically bringing home the spirit of one of the POWs.

The name of the POW and the person who walked to liberate his spirit is inscribed in a register.

This special act of remembrance continues until all the spirits have returned home.

"As the trek went on, I gained more and more respect for the brave and courageous soldiers that endured the harshest of conditions and still looked after their mates in the true Aussie spirit," said the youngest member of the trek, 13 year-old Jesse Layt.

Topics:  borneo lindisfarne anglican grammar school

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