A Historical Journey Through Sabah

A Historical Journey Through Sabah

Take a historical journey through Sabah with us as we uncover its many histories and legends.


Where buildings and monuments still stand to commemorate and remind us of how far our ancestors went to fight every battle for us all to be here today, to fight for freedom and independence. Where history has been turned into stories for us to listen to, and where today’s buildings and monuments serve as national landmarks.


We Sabahans should be proud of where we are in today’s society. Our ancient buildings and monuments have increased in value due to their history and the presence of numerous incidents.


Here’s a look at some of Sabah’s most famous landmarks and how they play into the state’s rich history:


Sabah Tourism Board building


A Historical Journey Through Sabah

The current Sabah Tourism Board building on Gaya Street, was previously a printing office and the Jesselton Post Office. Despite the bombings during WWII, it has withstood the test of time and is one of three of Sabah’s oldest structures to have survived the attack.


The Atkinson Clock Tower


A Historical Journey Through Sabah

The Atkinson Clock Tower, which stands about 50 feet tall, is another of Kota Kinabalu’s oldest standing structures that survived WWII and one of the city’s most popular landmarks.


The tower was named in memory of Francis George Atkinson, the very first Jesselton’s first district officer, who died in 1902 as a result of malaria. Since 1905, the Clock Tower has stood on the bluff along Signal Hill Road.


Interesting facts!
The Atkinson Clock Tower was constructed entirely of Mirabau wood with no nails.


Kota Kinabalu Community Hall (Dewan Masyarakat Kota Kinabalu)


A Historical Journey Through Sabah


The Kota Kinabalu Community Hall was officially established in 1958 and has stayed open to this day to highlight and preserve Sabah’s history.


The Committee of Management of Japanese Assets proposed in 1953 the construction of a community centre in what was then Jesselton. Among the architects, there was a competition to see who could build the best design.


Billings Leong was the winning architect, and his vision for the structure included at least three badminton courts and 800 seats. Billings Leong consulted Standard Steel Pty. Ltd. in Melbourne, Australia, on the usage of steel trusses in the construction. The building was completed in four and a half months, beginning on 11 October 1957.


The Kota Kinabalu Community Hall is currently the hub for Pusat Lestari Kota Kinabalu (PLKK), a programme started by the Kota Kinabalu City Hall (DBKK) that consists of four key components: a repair centre, an education and awareness centre, a recycling centre, and a donation counter.


Double Six Monument


A Historical Journey Through Sabah


The Double Six Monument was built to commemorate the unexpected crash of an Australian Nomad aircraft plane on 6 June 1976. The plane went down in Sembulan, killing all 11 passengers who were on their way to the airport in Tanjung Aru from Labuan.


The plane’s passengers include Sabah’s then-Chief Minister Tun Fuad Stephens, Datuk Peter Mojuntin (Local Government and Housing Minister), Datuk Salleh Sulong (Sabah Finance Minister), Chong Thien Vun (Sabah Works and Communication Minister), and others.


Sandakan Death March


A Historical Journey Through Sabah


The Sandakan Death March was one of the most tragic events that occurred in Borneo during WWII. During the incident, 2,434 people were injured (1787 Australians and 641 British), with only 6 Australians surviving because they managed to flee during their march.

To commemorate the sufferings of these people who marched from Sandakan to Ranau through starvation and sickness, a memorial park called “The Last POW Camp Memorial” was built. You can visit the park in Ranau, or if you’re ever in Kundasang, you can visit the Kundasang War Memorial.


Mat Salleh Memorial


A Historical Journey Through Sabah


The Mat Salleh Memorial is located in Kampung Tibabar, Tambunan, and depicts the history of Datu Paduka Mat Salleh – the local chief from the district of Lingkabo and Sugut River, who led a rebellion against the British North Borneo Chartered Company in order to fight and gain independence for the state of Sabah.


Thanks to his bravery and courage, he had many local supporters for the revolts he had started, and one of his major successes was when they attacked a major colonial settlement on Gaya Island. The Mat Salleh Memorial is one of a kind; the monument, which resembles a fort, is located in a traditional village where you can see nearby villagers, particularly the small children, running and playing in the area. Giving people a taste of their way of life in the area.


Ontoros Antanom


Sabah State Museum


Standing tall in the centre of Tenom town is the statue of a legendary Murut warrior from Sabah named Ontoros Antanom, who led the Rundum uprising against the British North Borneo Company with the help of chiefs and villagers from Keningau, Persiangan, and Rundum.


Nearly a thousand Murut warriors gathered to fight the British in 1915. This is because the Murut people were forced to have two children under the administration of the British Chartered North Borneo Company, and one of their children had to be sacrificed as forced labour.


Antanom and the other warriors had successfully attacked the British, who had failed to stop them, however Antanom was executed in an unforeseen occurrence. The British set a trap for them by offering a peace talk at Rundum. As Antanom and his followers approached their intended destination, the British arrested and executed them.


The Antanom Museum was built in memory of Ontoros Antanom, and visitors can learn about the history of Tenom’s local hero and his efforts to defend his people’s rights.


Melalap Train Station


A Historical Journey Through Sabah
Photo Credit: North Borneo Historical Society

Melalap train station was the former Western Sabah Railway Line station in Melalap. The railway line was officially opened on 1 August 1914 and it was used to transport produce and passengers to towns.


The station was closed and abandoned between 1970 and 1971 as a result of an economic crisis and upheaval. The train started to deteriorate and became overgrown with bushes.


Due to its lack of support and financial backing, nothing could be done to save the railway station. On 20 March 2017, Deputy Chief Minister Joseph Kitingan designated Melalap Train Station as a National Heritage, and on 23 February 2018, it became a new enactment of “Stage Heritage Enactment 2017” by Sabah’s state Heritage Council.


Batu Tinagat Lighthouse


A Historical Journey Through Sabah

The Batu Tinagat Lighthouse is located in Tawau, and was built by the British North Borneo Chartered Company in 1946 to provide a safe night passageway for ships bringing in coal from Silimpopon. Following World War II, the lighthouse wall was destroyed by the impact of an aircraft machine gun fired by Japanese and allied forces. Post war, the British colonial authority permitted repairs to the lighthouse, and by 1999, the source of light was given using solar energy rather than kerosene, and a new lighthouse was replaced in 2008. The lighthouse was renamed “State Heritage Enactment 2017” by the Sabah Heritage Council on 23 February  2018.



The preservation of buildings and monuments is as important as it appears. A history is preserved and reminded of their story to serve as a remembrance and reminder of the sacrifices that have been made.


A piece of the past could represent much more than we could ever think of. If a piece of the past is not properly saved and remembered, a history is lost, and reclaiming the memory of the past may be much more difficult.


Our ancestors  fought hard to get to where they are now, with sacrifices, independence, human rights, and much more than can be said.


The landmarks in Sabah have been properly preserved and portrayed to show the rest of the world how proud we are of our history and past that has been made for the betterment of our future.