By Halizsha Halim on January 10, 2017

 

The Federal Territory of Labuan is rich with marine life and flora. Located off coast Sabah in East Malaysia, Labuan is known for its natural beauty, clear blue waters, free duty shopping and friendly population attract many travellers. Interestingly, there is also another aspect of Labuan that attract international travellers in droves: Labuan Remembrance Day.

Gaya Travel Magazine was in Labuan last November 2016 in conjunction with the Remembrance Day (also known as Poppy Day), an annual ceremony observed on the 11th hour of the 11th day in November each year in Australia, Great Britain, India, New Zealand and Malaysia to commemorate the fallen Allied Servicemen during World War II (WWII).

In Labuan, the ceremony is held on the Sunday closest to 11 November at the Labuan War Memorial, a stoic-looking landmark characterised by a colonnade that forms a forecourt situated at the main entrance of the Labuan World War II Cemetery. Bronze panels engraved with the names of the fallen, including those who were missing and buried in unidentified graves, are mounted on the memorial’s columns. Next to the memorial lies the Labuan World War II Cemetery.

 

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When I participated in the ceremony, I was awash with melancholy in remembrance of the soldiers who risked their lives during the war. The solemn ceremony constituted customs and traditions such as the adornment of red poppies and the two-minute silence. As it progressed, laurels were laid on the graves as mark of honour. A lone piper and his bagpipe – traditional Scottish musical highlands’ instrument – played the tune ‘Flowers of the Forest’ to bid farewell to the dead. The ceremony culminated with the heart-rending bugle call ‘The Sound of The Last Post’, signifying that the duty of the dead was over and they can now rest in peace.

Travellers who are interested in World War II will find Labuan fascinating. There are vestiges relating to that war that they can experience. The takeaway I gained from my visit to selected vestiges related to World War II in Labuan as noted within these pages is how important it is to preserve peace. I also understand now how crucial it is for humankind to avert such catastrophe. Remembrance Day in Labuan might just be one of the most eye-opening experiences in Malaysia to educate travellers on the value of peace and life.

 

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Labuan War Memorial & Labuan World War II Cemetery

If travellers were coming from Labuan town, the memorial and cemetery are located on the left of Jalan Tajung Batu. It was primarily intended to commemorate the officers and men of the Australian Army and Air Force who died as prisoners-of-war (POWs) in Borneo from 1939-1945, including those who fell during the 1945 operations to recover Borneo. The cemetery contains 3,908 graves of soldiers from Australia, Great Britain, India, New Zealand and Malaysia. Of these 3,908, 2,156 were unidentified and became known as simply ‘Known unto God”.

 

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Address: 87000 Labuan, Labuan Federal Territory, Malaysia

Visiting hours: Monday – Friday 7AM until 4.30PM

 

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Chimney Museum & Tower

The Chimney is considered as an icon of Labuan. The museum that stands next to it serves as a site museum that exhibits and explains the history of Tanjung Kubong, especially on worldwide coal-mining processes and methods from 1847 until 1911, including mineral strata and coal specimens. The museum has seven galleries, including a discovery room and a dedicated exhibition space specifically for the 32.5-metre Chimney Tower that was built using more than 23,000 red bricks, believed to be related to the coal mining days of Labuan. There are many stories being told about The Chimney; some said it was an unfinished building while others said it was a lighthouse beaconing to passing ships, adding more mystery to this landmark.

 

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Address: Lot 2 Tingkat Bawah, Bangunan Tabung Haji, Jalan Tanjung Batu, 87008 Labuan, Labuan Federal Territory, Malaysia

Tel: +6 087 463 603

GPS: 5.381114, 115.248835

 

 

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“Gedung Ubat”

A 30-minute hike from The Chimney leads travellers to the eerie “Gedung Ubat”, where the Japanese used to store ammunitions, strategically built on a cliff overlooking the sea to spot incoming enemy ships. There is also theory explaining “Gedung Ubat” as the place to store herbal medicine which is shaped like a bullet. Intrepid travellers should put this on their lists due to its mysterious aura.

 

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Surrender Point

As one of the island’s main WWII landmarks, Surrender Point is the site where the Japanese officially surrendered their occupation of Labuan to the Australians. The official surrender ceremony was held at this very spot in the afternoon of 10 September 1945, attended by group Captain C. W. Pearce and Squadron leader J.S St. Heaps of Sydney.

Address: 87000 Labuan, Labuan Federal Territory, Malaysia

GPS: 5.332672, 115.192810

 

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Peace Park

Next to the Surrender Point is the Peace Park, built to commemorate the fallen soldiers who fought in Borneo during World War II. It is part of the effort towards building relationship, trust and prosperity between Malaysia and Japan. The construction of the park was completed using contribution by Japan Shipbuilding Industry Foundation and the support of the fallen soldiers’ families.

 

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Address: 87000 Labuan, Labuan Federal Territory, Malaysia

GPS: 5.332672, 115.192810

 

 

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Marine Museum

Housed in a two-storey building designed in the shape of a ship, The Labuan Marine Museum was officially opened on 26 January 2003. It features a collection comprising 572 marine specimens and contemporary items such as fishing, diving and oceanography equipment. The main objective of the museum is to promote awareness and appreciation towards Labuan natural heritage. The upper floor features the habitats of various ocean species, traditional and modern fishing equipment and traps, including diving gear; while the ground floor is divided into four sections: Marine Life, Shipwreck, Reef and Mangrove section. The museum also has 14 aquariums of varying sizes and a ‘touch pool’, offering travellers, especially young children, to experience touching marine life. Travellers will also be able to witness the 100-year old skeleton of a baby Indian Fin Whale, which is 42 feet long and now becomes one of the museum’s main attractions. It was found stranded on Papan Island (one of the small islands off Labuan’s coast).

 

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Address: Kompleks Sukan Air Antarabangsa Labuan, Jalan Tanjung Purun, 87008 Labuan, Malaysia

Tel: +6 087 425 927 / +6 087 414 135

Web: www.jmm.gov.my/ms/museum/muzium-marin-labuan

GPS: 5.274830, 115.254761

Visiting hours: 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. (Closed on the first day of Eid ul-Fitr and Eid ul-Adha)

 

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