ST MICHAEL'S CHURCH SANDAKAN
Taken from an article written by Lynette Silver in 2005
Some of you know me, most do not, but who I am is not important. Some of you will know, most of you will not, about something dear to my heart - the Sandakan Memorial Window Project, stage 1 of which has just been completed.
This involved the installation of magnificent, world-class stained glass windows in the Church of St Michael and All Angels, Sandakan, as a memorial to our POWs and as a thanksgiving to the people of Sabah who risked, and gave, their lives to help them. I am ashamed to say, as an Australian, that this is the first time anyone has ever bothered to acknowledge their unselfishness and sacrifice in such a tangible way.
The reason why we chose this beautiful, century-old stone church, one of only four buildings in Sandakan to survive the war, was because it was here that so many of our POWs spent the night after arriving on the hell ships from Singapore. The following day, they marched off to the camp, and ultimately, their deaths. It is the only building anywhere which survives to this day and has a direct connection to the prisoners.
Our project, funded entirely by friends and families of the prisoners, and by other caring and generous people, was so successful that we were able to complete all four windows in the west wall and create within the church a POW chapel, complete with leather-bound honour rolls and an exquisite timber and granite table of honour.
However, as so many people have expressed their disappointment at having missed out on stage one, we have decided to launch stage 2 -to complete what we began by installing stained glass in the two remaining major windows, over the north and south doors. Mr Philip Handel, who came out of retirement to do stage 1, has agreed to stay out of retirement for stage 2. Like so many of you, he lost someone very dear to him at Sandakan.
Many of you will be so caught up in your loss and grief that you will be unaware that our prisoners left us a wonderful legacy - a legacy that cannot be bought or sold; a legacy coveted by politicians, but often out of reach; a legacy so valuable that it is beyond price. It is the legacy of goodwill and friendship between nations, forged by our prisoners with the people of Sabah in a time of great adversity. It is a legacy we must not allow to wither and die, especially in this time of great unrest throughout the world. We intend to reinforce and nurture this legacy, entrusted to us by our prisoners of war, by having it as our focus for stage 2. - friendship and love of our fellow man.
If you missed out on stage 1, or having already participated would like to continue your support, here is your chance to be part of something very special. However, while Mr Handel has the vision and the incredible talent, and his wife, my husband and myself have the commitment, the energy, the drive and logistical skill to make it happen, we cannot do it alone.
We need your help to make it reality.
I can assure you, every cent donated goes directly to the project. There are no management or administrative fees.
I know that you care about the Sandakan story because you are here. If you would like to turn your tears of sorrow into tears of joy; if you would like, in a year's time, to stand transfixed before a stained glass window of stunning magnificence and say, as we did in April when we dedicated stage 1 - 'I helped create that'. If you would like to ensure that the precious legacy of our POWs is passed to successive generations. If you would like to transform the tragedy and grief of Sandakan into something beautiful and uplifting; a testimony to the triumph of good over evil and a source of wonder, awe, and joy for hundreds of years to come, please send your contribution to:
The Treasurer, Sandakan Memorial Windows Project, 15(B) Ada Avenue, Wahroonga 2076
along with two stamped, self-addressed envelopes - one for receipt etc and the other for a photo of the finished window.
The Friendship Windows will be our legacy. We can do this, together.
Lynette Silver Project Co-ordinator
Inspired by the Sandakan story and the Remembrance Windows, which she saw last year, Sydney artist Antoinette Russell has created a wall hanging for the southern wall of the chapel. Painted on canvas, mainly in shades of dull gold and silver, and backed in a deep, rich green, it symbolises the spirit of the POWs, the colours beautifully complementing the old grey stones of the wall on which the artwork mounted. Antoinette completed the hanging in time for Anzac Day, when it was dedicated at a private ceremony, attended by relatives accompanying me on the Anzac Day tour, church officials and the girls on our scholarship scheme. To the delight of the relatives, the simple service was preceded by a special ‘unveiling’ of the Windows of Remembrance, complete with music, resulting in as many tears, this year, as last!
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