SANDAKAN is the second-largest city in Sabah, on the north-eastern coast of Borneo. It is located on the east coast of the island and it is the administrative centre of Sandakan Division and was the former capital of British North Borneo. Sandakan is known as the gateway for ecotourism destinations in Sabah, such as the Sepilok Orangutan Sanctuary, Turtle Islands Park, Kinabatangan River and Gomantong Caves.
During the early 1870s, the east coast of Sabah was under control of the Sultan of Sulu, who also ruled what is now the southern Philippines. The first European settlement in the area was founded by William Clarke Cowie, a Scottish gun smuggler from Glasgow, who received permission from the Sultan of Sulu to establish a small trading base. Cowie called his settlement Sandakan, which in Tausug (Sulu) means "the place that was pawned", but it soon came to be known as "Kampung German" (or German village) after the large number of Germans who also set up posts there. The settlement was part of the lease AustroHungarian consul Baron von Overbeck acquired from the Sultan of Sulu in 1878. After the lease was purchased by von Overbeck's British partner Alfred Dent, Kampong German was accidentally razed to the ground on 15 June 1879. The new British Resident, William Burges Pryer, decided not to rebuild the village but to move to Buli Sim Sim on 21 June 1879. He named his new settlement Elopura, which means Beautiful City. A few years later, the name was changed back to Sandakan. The name Elopura still refers to a region of Sandakan.
The Japanese occupation of Sandakan during World War II began on 19 January 1942 and lasted until a brigade of the Australian 9th Division liberated it on 19 October 1945. The Japanese administration restored the name Elopura for the town. One of the many atrocities of World War II was the Sandakan Death Marches, when Japanese soldiers decided to move about 2,500 Allied prisoners of war in Sandakan 260 km (160 miles) inland to the town of Ranau, only six of them survived the war.
By Photo by CEphoto, Uwe Aranas