Guide to the Papers of Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop




The papers of Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop are held within the Private Records collection at the Australian War Memorial's Research Centre. They document Dunlop's life from 1922 to 1993 and cover his personal life, education, military and prisoner of war experiences and related post-war concerns, his medical career and his social and civic interests. The papers occupy twenty-five shelf metres and comprise a range of record types: personal diaries, letters, photographs, film, publications, manuscripts, medical case records, legal papers and official documents. Dunlop was best known in the public mind as prisoner of war, particularly on the Burma-Thailand Railway, and for his advocacy of the health and welfare of former prisoners after the war. His wartime diaries and related papers are highlights of the collection, but the whole collection documents the diversity and richness of Dunlop's interests and experiences throughout his life. There is much evidence here of the driving forces of Dunlop's life: his sense of duty, his compassion and his desire to be of service to others. The largest component of the collection is his post-war correspondence (seventeen boxes). The arrangement of the collection follows the original order in which Sir Edward maintained them. This may at times appear to be somewhat indiscriminate, with items appearing in files seemingly out of order. Researchers should be alert to this feature, especially in respect of the correspondence.

SERIES 1: Correspondence, 1949-1993 - This series consists mostly of letters to Dunlop but also includes some copies of his outgoing correspondence. It also includes medical papers, conference papers, manuscripts, speeches, financial and travel papers, references, Christmas and other cards and miscellaneous printed material. To facilitate access the correspondence has been described under the following headings, but researchers should note that these categories are not exclusive. Relevant material may possibly be located within any of the following categories, especially under General correspondence. A descriptive listing of each item is provided. SUBSERIES 1: Professional Correspondence - Relates to Dunlop's medical practice and other professional interests, both in Australia and overseas. It includes correspondence with professional colleagues and others in Australia and overseas (e.g. United Kingdom, India, Singapore and Thailand). Subjects covered include Dunlop's medical cases (including former prisoners of war), discussion of particular diseases and other medical conditions, references for Dunlop (ref: item 1/38), involvement in overseas aid programs, training and sponsorship of overseas students and doctors, requests from individuals and organisations for assistance, Dunlop's medical research interests, attendance at medical conferences, meetings and seminars. Also included are copies of talks, lectures, notes on medical matters by Dunlop and others, and travel arrangements. Correspondence on personal, family and other subjects is also included e.g. with his wife Helen and son Andrew (items 1/34 and 1/23). Correspondents include: A.P. Denham, the Repatriation Commission, Rowan Nicks, A. de Sa, P.K. Sen, R.L. Manchanda, P. Nathaniel, Laurens van der Post, Sir James Plimsoll, Lord Casey, M. Simons, Sir James Paterson Ross, C. Mayo, Sir Paul Maltby, Lord Arthur Porritt, R. Dowling, Sir Thomas Dunhill and K.G. Jayasekera. SUBSERIES 2: Family Correspondence - Includes correspondence with his parents and relations, with his wife Helen (including correspondence prior to their marriage e.g. [items 1/16 (a)-(h)]) and with his sons John and Alexander. It also includes correspondence pertaining to Helen Dunlop's funeral. Subjects include his sons' career, travel, family matters and their relationship with Dunlop. SUBSERIES 3: Personal Correspondence - Correspondence with friends and acquaintances on matters of mutual interest such as personal news, mutual acquaintances, social arrangements, Helen Dunlop's death, and financial and legal matters. Also included are congratulatory letters and cards, Christmas and birthday cards and lists of recipients of Christmas cards from Dunlop [item 1/92]. Correspondents include Charles Lett, Colin Lowndes, Laurens van der Post and Rowan Nicks. SUBSERIES 4: Prisoner of war, veterans and related correspondence - Includes correspondence with former prisoners of war, pension claims by former prisoners of war and other veterans, medical reports and opinions on specific cases by Dunlop, correspondence with Department of Veterans' Affairs and the Repatriation Review Tribunal, ex-prisoner of war organisations matters and the RSL. SUBSERIES 5: Honours and awards correspondence - Pertains to the granting of various honours and awards to Dunlop including his knighthood, Companion of the Order of Australia and honorary degrees. It also contains recommendations by Dunlop for awards to other persons. SUBSERIES 6: General Correspondence - An aspect of Dunlop's correspondence is its casual filing arrangement. Consequently, correspondence on diverse subjects is often filed together and has been listed here under General correspondence. It includes correspondence on all of the above topics from friends, acquaintances and members of the public in Australia and overseas, organisations, government offices and business firms.; SERIES 2: Personal papers, 1924-1992 - This series comprises a wide range of material documenting different aspects of Dunlop's personal life and interests and, to a lesser extent, those of his wife, Helen.; SERIES 3: Financial, legal and related documents, 1946-1993 - This series covers a range of personal, professional, financial and legal matters. These include Dunlop's wills, traffic accidents, property sales, household accounts, taxation, investment and insurance matters, as well as architectural drawings and plans.; SERIES 4: Speeches and addresses, 1940s-1992 - Public speeches and addresses delivered by Dunlop on a variety of civil, medical and military themes. Included are draft versions and printed copies of his speeches, notes, invitations to speak and programs of events and functions. ; SERIES 5: Publications and manuscripts, 1940-1987 - Included are copies of published and unpublished medical papers researched and written by Dunlop, forewords for publications on medical, military and other subjects, reviews, research notes, related correspondence and text of some speeches. Also included is pre-publication material for his The war diaries of Weary Dunlop, including the original manuscript, annotated drafts, publishers proofs, illustrations and photographs. There is also correspondence relating to royalties and publication schedules.; SERIES 6: Honours and awards, 1922-1980 - During Dunlop's life he received numerous honours and awards in recognition of his civic, sporting, educational, military and professional achievements. This series comprises original certificates of honours and awards presented to Dunlop by Australian and international governments and organisations. These include the Royal Life Saving Certificate (1922), Order of the British Empire (1947), Knight Bachelor (1969), Companion of the Order of Australia (1987) and the Knight Grand Cross Order of the Crown of Thailand (1993). Also included is the award of Life Governor, Royal Women's Hospital, 1980 to Helen Dunlop.; SERIES 7: Wartime diaries and papers, 1939-1946 - Throughout the Second World War Dunlop maintained personal diaries. As a prisoner of war of the Japanese these were kept at great personal risk to himself. The circumstances of his captivity mean that there are periodic gaps in the diaries. Also included are the diaries of other POWs that came into Dunlop's possession. Dunlop's diaries are complimented by medical reports and related papers written mainly by Dunlop pertaining to his Second World War and POW experiences.; SERIES 8: Medical career, 1930-1981 - These records of Dunlop's medical career cover his medical studies and subsequent surgical practice. They also include records of his medical research, lecturing and teaching, and involvement with numerous professional, social and medical organisations. This series includes patient records, research notes and data, copies of his lectures and accompanying glass slides, copies of minutes, reports and related papers concerning his social and medical interests and employment with the British Phosphate Commission. For privacy reasons, access to patient's records and related material is restricted.; SERIES 9: Ex-prisoners of war and veteran's matters, 1945-1993 - Includes correspondence, reports and related papers relating to veterans' (especially former POWs') claims for pensions and other support. Also, Dunlop's involvement with ex-prisoner of war associations, commemorative tours and activities, letters from former prisoners of war and miscellaneous material pertaining to POWs and the Burma-Thailand railway.; SERIES 10: Asian interests, 1955-1993 - Dunlop's medical interests extended to the promotion of medical education and services in Asia, particularly Thailand, India and Sri Lanka. Under the Colombo Plan and other schemes he made several visits to Asia teaching, undertaking surgical work, delivering lectures and promoting financial, educational and other assistance. This series includes correspondence, reports, medical and other papers related to these interests and activities. In addition, the series includes a daybook, with irregular entries, covering Dunlop's time as Team Leader of the Australian Surgical Team to South Vietnam in 1969, plus mixed papers and reports concerning the Australian Surgical Team.; SERIES 11: Clubs, associations and charitable committees, 1929-1992 - This series relates to Dunlop's involvement in various clubs, associations and charities. Included are magazines and newsletters, correspondence, reports and related papers.; SERIES 12: Printed material - This series includes assorted books, leaflets, articles, journals and pamphlets on medical, prisoner of war, military, travel, music and other subjects of interest to Dunlop.

Edward Ernest Dunlop was born on 12 July 1907 at Major's Plain, Victoria, the second of two children for his parents James and Alice (nee Payne), his brother Alan being born in 1905. In 1910 the family moved to a farm near Stewarton and in 1922 to Benalla. Dunlop attended Stewarton Public School and Benalla High School. His upbringing imbued him with a strong work ethic and a pride in his Scottish heritage, the British Empire and British governance and institutions. Commencing a pharmacy apprenticeship in 1924 at Benalla Dunlop moved to Melbourne in 1927 and attended the Pharmacy College. Excelling in his studies, he won a scholarship in 1930 to Ormond College, Melbourne University to study medicine. Here he acquired his nickname "Weary" (derived from Dunlop tyres) during the course of initiation ceremonies at the college. He excelled at university and graduated in 1934 with first class honours. He excelled too on the sports field, especially in rugby union at which he represented Australia in 1932. He joined the Royal Melbourne Hospital as a junior resident in 1935 and was appointed Senior Surgical Resident in 1936; in 1937 he joined the Children's Hospital as Resident. In 1937 he graduated as Master of Surgery from Melbourne University. Dunlop had been a school cadet, and he continued his part-time army service until 1929, when his service ceased under pressure from his pharmacy studies. He re-enlisted in 1935 and was commissioned into the Australian Army Medical Corps on 1 July with the rank of Captain. In May 1938 Dunlop left Australia for London aboard the SS Ormonde as the ship's medical officer. In London he attended St Bartholomew's Medical School and in 1938 became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. The distinguished medical mentors Dunlop met in London (for example Professor Grey-Turner and Sir Thomas Dunhill) impressed him with their total dedication to their profession, and he resolved to emulate their example. While in Britain Dunlop also developed a wide network of socially elevated and influential people. Second World War: At the outbreak of war Dunlop was working as a surgeon at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. He enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps (6th Division) on 13 November 1939 with the rank of Captain. He was posted in December 1939 as Medical Officer, Headquarters, Australian Overseas Base, Jerusalem, and appointed Acting Assistant Director of Medical Services. He was promoted to Major on 1 May 1940 and appointed Deputy Assistant Director of Medical Services on the staff of the Australian Corps Headquarters and AIF Headquarters in Gaza and Alexandria. Appointed as AIF Medical Liaison Officer on the staff of the Deputy Director of Medical Services of Lusterforce, he served in both Greece and Crete. On 18 July 1941 he was appointed to command 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station (2/2 CCS), but he was dissatisfied with staff work and declined this promotion. He remained with this unit as senior surgeon (and second in charge) and subsequently served with them in Tobruk. With the withdrawal of the 6th and 7th Australian Divisions from the Middle East, the 2/2 Casualty Clearing Station (and Dunlop) were transferred to Java. Here he was promoted to temporary Lt Colonel on 26 February 1942. He was in command of No.1 Allied General Hospital at Bandoeng (Bandung) when Java fell to the Japanese, and he became a prisoner of war. Burma-Thailand Railway: Australian prisoners of war on Java under Dunlop's command were transferred later that year to Singapore. Here Dunlop clashed with Lt Colonel Galleghan (commander of the 8th Australian Division troops in Changi) over Dunlop's authority as a non-combatant commander. On 20 January 1943 he left Singapore for Thailand in charge of ""Dunlop Force"" to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. He remained there until the war ended, labouring tirelessly to save wounded, sick and malnourished men. Many times he put his own life at risk as he stood up to the brutality of his Japanese captors. Though not the only medical officer to act in this selfless way, his name was to become a legend among Australian prisoners of war and an inspiration for their own survival. Throughout his captivity and at great personal risk Dunlop recorded his experiences in his diaries. On 27 September 1945 Dunlop was appointed Lt Colonel. Returning to Australia in October 1945 he was demobilised on 1 February 1946, transferring to the Reserve List of Officers with the rank of Honorary Colonel. Before demobilisation he had been working (since 10 December 1945) with Brigadier Blackburn at Army Headquarters as Assistant Director of Medical Services to Blackforce. Here his work was driven by a desire to obtain a level of justice for former prisoners of war. After the Second World War: When a student at Ormond College Dunlop had met Helen Ferguson, to whom he became engaged on 6 June 1940. On 8 November 1945 they were married at Toorak Presbyterian Church, Melbourne. They subsequently had two sons, John and Alexander. In February 1946 Dunlop resumed his medical career and established a thriving private practice. At the Royal Melbourne Hospital he was appointed Honorary Surgeon to Outpatients and in 1949 Honorary Surgeon to In-Patients. He was made a Fellow of the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons in January 1948. He joined the staff of the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital and in 1956 became Consultant Surgeon to the Peter MacCallum Clinic. In 1964 he was appointed the Senior Consultant at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. Obliged by age to retire from the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1967, Dunlop continued to practise medicine and was appointed medical officer for the British Phosphate Commission from 1973 to 1981. Dunlop performed a variety of surgical work but developed a particular interest in gastro-oesophageal surgery and cancer. He pioneered new surgical techniques, though his methods were not without critics. He lectured on his medical interests and for a time taught at the University of Melbourne. Visits to the United States, Britain and other countries developed his professional knowledge and widened his professional and social contacts, and he was actively involved with Australian and international professional bodies, including the International Society of Surgeons. His medical interests extended to community health matters, such as cancer, alcoholism, drug dependence and fluoridation. He served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria (1974-80) and President of the Victorian Foundation on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence (1970-82). Dunlop's friendship with Lord Casey led to his involvement in the Colombo Plan. He taught and undertook surgical work in Thailand, Ceylon and India. He encouraged and promoted the training in Australia of Asian medical personnel and was an active member of the Australian-Asian Association of Victoria. His involvement in Indian medicine was particularly strong and he was made an Honorary Fellow of the Indian Association of Surgeons in 1972. In1969 he was Team Leader of the Australian Surgical Team to South Vietnam. Dunlop maintained a passionate concern for the health and welfare of former POWs of the Japanese (many of whom were his patients). After the war he resolved to "make [the] care and welfare" of former prisoners of war "a life-long mission". He supported individuals making pension claims and advised and lobbied governments on their behalf. He was Chairman of the Prisoners of War Trust Fund from 1969 to 77. Dunlop also remained active with ex-prisoner of war and veterans associations, being for a time federal president of the Ex-POW Association of Australia. He addressed numerous reunions, meetings and ceremonies both in Australia and overseas. In his later years he led commemorative tours to the Burma-Thailand railway. He came to reject hatred of his former captors and promoted reconciliation with the Japanese. Dunlop was also a patron, member and supporter of numerous social, educational and sporting associations. These included the Freemasons, Ormond College and the Melbourne Scots. Gregarious by nature, Dunlop maintained a wide circle of friends and acquaintances in Australia and overseas and was to be seen at many social occasions. He was a diligent letter writer and conscientious in sending Christmas cards. During the course of his life Dunlop received numerous honours and awards in recognition of his civic, sporting, educational, military and medical achievements. These included the Order of the British Empire (1947), Knight Bachelor (1969), Companion of the Order of Australia (1987), Knight Grand Cross, Order of St John of Jerusalem (1992), Knight Grand Cross (1st Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Royal Crown of Thailand (1993). He was an Honorary Fellow of the Imperial College of London, an Honorary Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, Honorary Life Member of the RSL and Life Governor of the Royal Women's Hospital and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital. In 1977 he was named Australian of the Year and in 1988 one of the 200 Great Australians. On 21 April 1988 Helen Dunlop died. She had been suffering from Alzheimer's Disease for many years. After contacting pneumonia, Dunlop died at his home on 2 July 1993. He was accorded a state funeral on 12 July at St Paul's Cathedral, Melbourne. Over 10,000 people witnessed his funeral, attesting to his great public esteem and popularity. His biographer, Sue Ebury, described him as in many ways a "simple and modest man, ever conscious of his origins and grateful for his success." To the end of his life he retained his loyalty to former prisoners of war. Two weeks before he died he wept uncontrollably for the men he had known: "in the prison camps they were the best ? they were survivors." And yet, in what is perhaps the key to the immense respect and reverence felt for Dunlop by so many Australians, he combined compassion and loyalty to his fellows with tolerance and forgiveness of his enemies. As one who had suffered so much and still been able to forgive his captors, he seemed to offer a way forward for the many others who had also endured the trauma of war.

Contact Senior Curator, Private Records, Australian War Memorial.

Open with exceptions - Contact Senior Curator, Private Records, Australian War Memorial.

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2/2 Casualty Clearing Station; Burma Thailand Railway; Prisoners of War; Professional correspondencce; Surgery

Australian Army Medical Corps; Sir Edward Weary Dunlop

Correspondence; Diaries; Personal papers

Prisoners of War; World wars

Coverage Temporal



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