death by paper cut

{February 25, 2006}   lest we forget

a certain patriotic sentiment stirred in me when i saw the changi flag honoured at the shrine of remembrance.

it feels different to see a part of your own country’s history recognised in another continent, as opposed to visiting the singapore history museum. it brings to mind the collective experience that spans race and distance; that both australians and singaporeans were subjugated by the same oppressor, although to varying extents.

my family friends from sydney, uncle rob and aunty wendy, visited the changi chapel and museum when they visited singapore. aunty wendy’s father was a prisoner-of-war in singapore during the japanese occupation.

although there was little mention of the local (singaporean) resistance efforts at the shrine of remembrance, it was a fresh angle for me to commemorate them.

lest we forget.

PoW Unit Before a Flag

Neil Wilson12feb05ORDNANCE private VX67289 met ambulancemen VX31907, VX42158 and VX37805 for the first time in six decades yesterday.Treasurer Peter Costello knew the old Diggers weren’t reciting their tax file numbers.

William “Bluey” Cummins has always lived in Victoria, as have Harry Shurey, Ken Topliss and Paul Payne, but he last saw the other VXs in Singapore’s Changi prison – brother prisoners of war.

All four will now be together forever at the Shrine of Remembrance, their army numbers and names scrawled on a Union Jack in the Hall of Columns.

Bluey, Harry, Ken and Paul are the four surviving Victorians among 91 Diggers who during World War II captivity signed the “Changi flag”.

The flag was officially unveiled yesterday by Mr Costello. Also there was British army sgt-major Bill Cutler, a liberator who helped raise the flag in 1945.

“I haven’t seen so many people crowded into a room this size since they packed us in at Changi,” Mr Shurey quipped.

He helped hide the flag, souvenired before surrender in February 1942, from Japanese searches for three years. It was stuffed into pillows or rolled into a baton for passing along to avoid detection.

RSL state president David McLachlan said the flag was a symbol of defiance from men who had none other – it was draped over their dead at funerals.

But Bluey Cummins was the only one who clearly recalled writing on it – the night he and his mates left Changi for the Thai-Burma death railway.

“When we’d been standing there waiting and one said, hey Bluey, want to put your name on this?” he said.

Ex-PoW Bill Flowers, secretary of the 2/9th Field Ambulance association, faced businessman Ron Walker and thanked him.

The Walker Foundation bought the flag last year, to stop it going overseas or interstate.



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