You could be forgiven for passing the SANZAC Secondary College in Kota Kinabulu without either a second look or thought as you do so. But on closer inspection this College in the Capital of Sabah, Malaysia, is a poignant reminder not only of the years of suffering World War 2 brought, but also a celebration of the friendship those times generated. It is a lasting and practical symbol of the strong bond of comradeship between the residents of Sabah and the Australian soldiers from the 32nd Battalion who were stationed at the site just after World War 2.

A local teenager Francis Loh, ran errands for the Australian soldiers based at the site in the then Jesselton between 1945 and 1947. His dedication and hard work so impressed the soldiers that they paid him back by raising the money he needed to complete his schooling and become a journalist. Francis later went on to pursue a very successful career in the Insurance industry.

In 1966 a year before the city of Jesselton was renamed Kota Kinabalu, Francis decided to make a permanent monument to thank the Australian Soldiers for their generosity, and so became the founder of the SANZAC School on the donated land from the Education Department.. A joint fundraising effort commenced and raised RM250,000 required for the project. Half the funds were donated by the Australian and New Zealand Returned Service League. The other half was raised by Francis himself, with such innovative schemes as local dragon dances and other activities within the local Kota Kinabalu community.

Over the next 5 years Francis oversaw the construction of the project as his vision became a reality. The seven classrooms along with the thirty foot memorial, were finally handed to the Education Department in 1971. The four pillared memorial showed the national flags of the 3 SANZAC countries, Sabah, Australian and New Zealand, and can still be seen in the present day.
Today the school has five blocks of classrooms as well as a hostel. It continues to contribute to the educational development of Sabah students as well as acting as a poignant reminder and monument to the soldiers who lost their lives for the liberation of Malaysia during World War 2.

Over the years it has become a place of pilgrimage especially for members of the Borneo POW Relatives Association of Western Australia. Their 2003 visit was greeted with a wonderful welcome from Teachers, Students and Parents alike, official welcome and many speeches, despite their visit being on a Sunday. My own visit in January 2011 was decidedly low key in comparison but left me with a lasting impression of the historical significant of such a memorial

SMK SANZAC Memorial is a legacy to the strong bond between the Australian soldiers of 32nd Battalion and Francis Loh. Australian visitors to Malaysia should include a tour of this historical memorial at Peti Surat 264, 89458 Tanjung Aru, Kota Kinabalu, ensuring that the true spirit of the SANZAC’s foundation is never lost.

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As soon as my friend and I hopped off the little boat and onto Malaysia’s Tioman Island we jumped into the ocean and swam until sunset. The island is full of life so it wasn’t long before I spotted huge monitor lizards scurrying beneath beach huts and monkeys fighting by the lake.
It was on my first evening that I learned about the infamous Monkey Beach with its clear water and beauty. Not realizing what hardship it would take to reach, my friend and I clambered up the rocks that promised to lead us there. Not only were the jungle paths twisted and rocky, but also the trees towered above us, impressing upon us how vulnerable and insignificant we were. In
parts we scrambled over large rocks or used ropes attached to rocks to haul ourselves over the all too frequent steep slopes. Due to the constant scuttling, rustling, croaking and shrieking that was never far away, we were very aware that we were not alone on this jungle walk.

We were proud of our progress and very much looking forward to arriving at our desired destination, but about half way through the trek, our pathway was blocked. The offender happened to be the biggest monitor lizard that either of us had seen and certainly the most menacing. Despite the fact that monitor lizards look like alligators, you can never get too close because they are so frightened of humans that they instantly flee. This monitor lizard, however, was quite different from others that we had dealt
with. He would not move because as far as he was concerned, it was his path, and we would not cross.

We considered our options to be either climbing over him or walking around him. To the left of the lizard-blocked path was a rock far too large to climb over and to the right was a precipitous slope covered by dense trees and thick undergrowth. On agreeing that we wouldn’t turn back and that we couldn’t wait around forever we proceeded with option one. With each step
I took, the lizard stamped and smacked his tail against the rock. Not too far from him I froze, scared that he would lunge at me, and then I retreated.
As the lizard persisted to swish his tail, hiss his forked tongue and stamp, we decided to leave the path in order to get around him. I didn’t stray far from the path before I heard rustling and my friend informed me that the lizard had turned to face the direction in which I had walked. Terrified he would follow me, I returned. At this point, I thought we would be stuck forever, but eventually after we pretended to leave, he moved. We crept past because we could hear that he was still close by in the bushes. As we passed he hissed loudly , so we ran with pounding hearts the rest of the way to Monkey Beach.
It was certainly a much more intense trek than originally intended, but once arriving at that deserted beach with white sand and turquoise water we felt this all made our previous distress melt away. Besides, diving into the cool water was more satisfying than ever.