15 August 2015

Seventieth Anniversary of the end of the Pacific War

Today is the seventieth anniversary of the end of World War II in the Pacific.

On this day in 1945 my father was on board the MV Duntroon, as head of a Prisoner of War Relief Unit, together with a contingent of Australian General Hospital (Army) nurses. The vessel was bound for India, the mission of those on board being to aid the POWs being liberated from the Japanese in Burma.

When news of the Japanese surrender came through, the vessel was diverted to Singapore, arriving there on the day Lord Louis Mountbatten accepted the formal surrender from the Japanese commander. They set up headquarters in Changi Gaol, and began the dreadful business of assessing the physical and psychological state of the prisoners in Changi and those coming down from the Burma-Thailand Railway and the outlying camps.

The matron in charge of the AGH contingent was the remarkable Madge Brown, whom I got to know well in my school days as she took up a position straight after the war as administrator of student accommodation at the New England University College/University of New England, a position she still held when I left Armidale in 1966. Madge had an eventful war: among her other claims to fame was the fact that she had been in Tobruk during the siege. It was a privilege to have known her.

For more on Madge Brown, see  Ida Madge Brown (1904-2009).