Australian War Memorial’s Photos of Heavily Bombed Jesselton During World War II

If you stand right in the heart of Kota Kinabalu or Jesselton today you won’t be able to imagine the destruction the city had experienced during World War II.

UPDATE: Watch the video here.

As part of a campaign to liberate Borneo from the hands of Japanese, a few bombing missions were launched. One of them is by No. 31 Squadron RAAF using Beaufighter Aircraft. They operated from an airstrip on Sanga Sanga Island in the Southern Philippines.

If you’re curious on how Jesselton looked like before World War II, this page has very good collection of old street photos of Jesselton.

All photos below were acquired from Australian War Memorial and they were taken by photographer Sgt F. A. C. Burke.

Bomb damaged railway carriages at Jesselton station. The Atkinson clock tower is in the distance.

1945-10-06. Some of the bomb damage at Jesselton, British North Borneo.

1945-10-08. Bomb damaged houses in a waterfront street.

1945-10-06. A bomb damaged residential area of Jesselton. The railway station and clock tower are in the middle distance.

A total destruction of Jesselton as a result of heavy bombardment.

Men of the 2/32nd Battalion marching through the ruins of Jesselton seen from an archway at the entrance to the Jesselton railway station.

Just last month, I had the opportunity to walk near the Atkinson Clock Tower and this is how it looked today. It’s one of the only two remaining structures from the old Jesselton that’s still standing.

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Richard Ker

I love the history of North Borneo (Sabah) and strive to digitally any related information on this website. I'm also the author of and Follow me on Twitter @richardker.


  1. Thank you for sharing this online, just what i am looking for.
    i love reading and looking the pictures, how our Kota Kinabalu looks like during and after the war.
    I bet 80% or generations these day have no clue how KK looks like in once upon the time…

    Once again thank you for sharing.
    I am a 70s-80s generations.

    • Victoria, thank you very much. Thanks to the internet, it made things easier for us to share the good things especially Sabah’s rich and amazing untold history. Hang in there as I’lI be posting more stories soon.

  2. Thumbs up to you. These picture worth remembering for young generation and youngster. It tells us more about our past. I am the 1980s. Love to see more.

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