The Japanese occupation of Sandakan, January 1942

The following article, written by Graham Donaldson, is a short summary from the book:
Borneo Surgeon - A Reluctant Hero - The Story of Dr James P. Taylor written by Peter Firkins.

Mount Kinabalu Casts Its Shadow

Chapter VI

Dawn at Sandakan on Sunday 18 January 1942 was lashed by heavy monsoonal rains and wind that continued throughout the day, yet it was oppressive and humid, typical of the tropics. The Europeans of Sandakan waited with apprehension throughout the day with the only laudable sound being the incessant rainfall. At sometime during the day Dr. Taylor rang his wife from the hospital, "I've just had a report that this weather is as bad at sea as it is here" he said, "so perhaps they (the Japanese) won't make it in those small boats, but the Japs have been sighted off Kudat."

  The map of the Dutch East Indies 1941-1942
The map is courtesy of Graham Donaldson

At six o'clock that evening the European residents were ordered by the Governor, Mr. Robert Smith, to Government House. For whatever hopes that the storms may have wrecked the invading Japanese forces at sea were dashed, for their battered warships had in fact anchored in Sandakan Harbour during the night and all day. The pyshical amphibious invasion properly began the next day when at 7 am on the morning of the 19 January the Japanese came ashore unopposed. The enemy was greeted by the British Resident, East Coast, Mr. Owen Rutter, and accompanying the Japanese was the British Resident of the West Coast, in case of resistance he would have been the first to be shot dead.

There was no organised opposition as the North Borneo Volunteers, of about company strength, was demobilised weeks before, to avoid needless casualties and would have been no match for the heavily armed Japanese invasion force. Dr.Taylor recalled that Air Chief Marshal Brooke-Popham, C-in-C British Forces in Malaya said that the waters around the area of Sandakan were too shallow for an invasion force, and Dr.Taylor observed that "he was an old fogey, and the Japanese came ashore in little boats anyway." The Japanese commander established his authority with the British Governor and the fears of atrocities subsided when the Europeans having congregated at Government House were sent home until May. Then the Japanese decided to intern everyone at the Quarantine Station on Berhala Island, near the leper colony, eventually after twelve months on this foresaken island the European internees were sent to Kuching.

The Invasion of British Borneo in 1942 . Bibliography . Article List . Geographic Names
Forgotten Campaign: The Dutch East Indies Campaign 1941-1942


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