British Empire Article

Bruce Sandilands Obituary

Bruce went on his last expedition into the interior and uninhabited tropical rain forest about mid-November by helicopter. Meeting his four laborers there, then a short sortie out and back to Padang Lima. After a further four days trek due to shortage of food, fever, Singapore foot, and uncertainty of making destination, he agreed to go back the way they came. According to the full account recorded in his Diary, they rested and on their way back about 10 a.m., he told them to cut ahead the path and to wait each half hour for him. They did but not long enough, so they continued leaving him with only a tin of sardines on the 5th December 1975.

They arrived foot sore no shoes on 18th at 4 p.m. Intensive searches were mounted six then eleven parties, together with helicopter search.

The family first knew well after Christmas, speculation, agonized period with no news. On the 4th February I flew to Sabah as there was still hope, a man of his experience was still alive. Stayed night father Lomax, Singapore. All have received me here with friendliness and help. The Permanent Secretary to the Chief Minister, Datuk Egoh, his assistant Mr. Stanley Yee, offered all facilities for land and air search. On the 9th February 1976, a watch, compass, water bottle, clothing, and remains of B.W. Sandilands were found. Other items were later recovered, most important his Diary kept by him till his death. The automatic watch had stopped at the 23rd, his diary the 22nd.

The entries clearly rule out physical attack, state the lack of food, 18 days of deteriorating health. Quote 8/12/75, "This may be the last day I can walk, so water and shelter 12 x apart can I make it?" 19 days without food in all. He wishes us a peaceful Christmas with joy and recalls a prayer.

I wanted to be able to give you as full a picture as I can. But now time will drag as I have waited several days to have a funeral as the remains have not been sent back from Kuala Lumpur Forensic Department. I am sorry not to have better news but I am sure you would like to know. Bruce's character comes through well in his last days. He was a great Brother and a sad loss to the family.

Bruce Sandilands died on or about the 23rd December 1975 in the Borneo forest about thirty miles east of Penslangan, Sabah, Malaysia. Whilst on a preliminary reconnaissance to clear and establish trig points for the survey of the Kalimantan-Sabah border in uninhabited mountainous jungle, he became separated unintentionally from his survey labourers. He was suffering from a progressive infection of his feet. His remains were found and identified some two months later by a party of Border Scouts from personal belongings and equipment which included maps, compass, waterbottle, and a diary ln Which he kept short notes almost to his dying day.

He had worked as a Government Surveyor and land development officer in Sabah between 1948 and 1972 and established most of the primary trig points. In so dolng he travelled in outlying and relatively unknown areas. After an absence of four years, when he worked wlth the Greater London Council, he returned to Sabah at the age of 54 for a further contract appointment just two months previous to his death.

Courtesy of Borneo Research Council

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by Stephen