At Paginatan, situated on the death march track 26 miles (40 kms) from Ranau, the POW Route sign erected by the Sabah Tourism Board (see Following the Death March Route) has been supplemented by a special historical marker. As the the first village to be reached after leaving Sandakan, almost 200 kms away, Paginatan was a vital staging post and an important part of the POW story.
In 2010, recognising the significance of the site, Datuk Irene Charuruks, (Managing Director of Sabah Tourism), Lynette Silver and Tham Yau Kong initiated a joint Australian/Sabahan project to erect an historic marker at the village. In August that year, group of young Australians from Lindisfarne Grammar School and a large number of local villagers formed a human chain to collect more than 100 rocks from a nearby stream – one rock for every POW who died in or around the village. These were then formed into a small cairn, to create a base for the marker.
The Paginatan Historical Marker, unveiled jointly by POW relatives and village elders on 26 April 2011, completed the signage along the ‘POW Trail’. It is situated under a large fig tree at the western end of the village, a short distance from the POW cemetery, the site of the POW hut, and the Japanese store house, where a POW labour force deposited the bags of rice they had carried from Ranau.
The information panel, in English and Bahasa Malay, records not only the story of the POWs, but also the bravery of local people, who risked their lives to help them. (Note: The signage quotes the number of dead at 200. The actual number who died in or near the village is estimated to be well over 100, as many death records did not record actual place of death. Post-war, 103 bodies were recovered in the Paginatan area. Of these, 95 were found buried in a makeshift cemetery on the river’s edge, but it is known that a substantial number of remains were washed away by floods.) For more historical information see Sandakan Death Marches.