Changi Handkerchief

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"This frame contains a linen handkerchief of which many of the Prisoners of War of the Japanese have signed and recorded their unit identity.

The ‘scroll’ has the signature of Lt. Colonel A.F. Coates, Officer Commanding of the Tenth Australian General Hospital. He was the Senior Allied Officer when the linen was signed.

Also at the top right corner is the signature of Sir Edward ‘Weary’ Dunlop whose fame and exploits have been recorded in history.
The ‘handkerchief’ was donated by Mr Neil Collinson, member of this RSL, who was in the camp, sick and wounded." (Label: Red Cliffs Military Museum)

In 1942, the Japanese Army took the island of Singapore in a matter of days, in one of the British Army’s most humiliating war defeats, taking around 100,000 British, Australian and Indian troops prisoner.

Around 15,000 Australian troops were sent to Changi, a group of seven Prisoner of War (POW) and Internee camps. It was largely used as a base, before transporting prisoners to labour projects, such as the infamous Burma-Siam Railway, estimated to have cost 100,000 POW and civilian lives.

In March 1944, the Japanese had captured a hospital in Java for which Edward “Weary” Dunlop was responsible. Sent to Changi and then onto the Burma - Siam Railway, Dunlop, as the Commanding Officer and Surgeon, had the responsibility for over one thousand men.

Dunlop' s bravery, ingenuous surgical improvisations and compassion, in one of the most horrendous occurrences of the war in the Pacific, have become legendary. He famously took beatings instead of his men, and had placed himself between the bayonets and an injured POW.

Nakom Paton, about 50 miles from Bangkok, was the Hospital Camp specially built in 1944 to accommodate 10,000 sick.

This handkerchief is a rare artefact, containing the signatures of at least 80 POWs, including Dunlop and Coates, and several names in Chinese characters.

Detail

“A Relic of Nakompaton”: Changi Handkerchief

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