It is a moving experience to visit the memorial to one of Australia's hero's and read about his life and experiences. Some of the information at the memorial is documented below.
1907 - 1945
The story of Edward 'Weary' Dunlop - doctor, soldier, humanitarian - is a story of dedication and endurance; it has many remarkable chapters. After a childhood spent near Benalla in north-eastern Victoria, Dunlop qualified with distinction in pharmacy and medicine, and excelled as a sportsman at Melbourne University, representing Australia in rugby. The surgeons leading qualification in London soon followed, and from there, when war broke out in 1939, he volunteered for the 2nd AIF.
Dunlop was appointed to the medical headquarters in the Middle East, where he developed the mobile surgical unit. In Greece he liaised with forward medical units and Allied Headquarters, and at Tobruk he was a surgeon. In 1942 he was captured by the Japanese army in Java, together with the hospital he was commanding. Because of his leadership skills, he was placed in charge of prisoner-of-war camps in Java, was later briefly transferred to Changi, and in January 1943 commanded the first Australians sent to work on the Thai segment of the Burma-Thailand railway.
A courageous leader and compassionate doctor, he restored morale in those terrible prison camps and jungle hospitals. Dunlop defied his captors, gave hope to the sick and eased the anguish of the dying. He became, in the words of one of his men, 'a lighthouse of sanity in a universe of madness and suffering'.
1946 - 1993
After 1945, with the darkness of the war years behind him, Dunlop forgave his captors and turned his energies to the task of healing and building. He devoted himself to the health and welfare of former prisoners-of-war and their families, and worked to promote better relations between Australia and Asia.
He was active in many spheres of endeavour. In his own field of surgery, he pioneered new techniques against cancer. He became closely involved with a wide range of health and educational organisations, and his tireless community work had a profound influence on Australians and on the peoples of Asia. As well as numerous tributes and distinctions bestowed upon him in his own country, he received honours from Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, and the United Kingdom. It was ironic that a man of such enormous energy should be nicknamed 'Weary' - a result of word association (Dunlop, tyre, tired, Weary) in his undergraduate days.
Edward 'Weary' Dunlop was a heroic yet modest man, whose character and strength of purpose inspired many. He gave his country a vision of courage, compassion, sacrifice and service.
He is remembered as a truly great Australian.
Recorded here are the names of the Australian medical doctors who were prisoners of the Japanese during World War II and who tended the needs of their fellow prisoners. The 22 railway sleepers represent over 22,000 Australian men and women captured by the Japanese. The 8 steps with plaques represent the 8,000 Australians who perished during captivity. The metal spikes in the sleepers are from the original Burma - Thai railway.
The Burma - Thai Railway
The Burma - Thai Railway was built by Allied Prisoners of War (POW) and impressed Asian labour between May 1942 and October 1943. This major engineering feat of World War II ran 415 km from Burma to Thailand, through steep, densely forested terrain. It provided a land route for the embattled Japanese forces fighting the Allies in Burma. Despite terrible loss of life the POW constructed kilometres of bridges and displaced seven million cubic metres of earth and rock, mostly by hand and primitive tools. A handful of Allied medical officers kept thousands alive despite endemic tropical diseases, starvation and calculated brutality by Korean and Japanese guards. The devotion of these doctors to the sick and dying will never be forgotten.