Monday 9 May 2016

Meet Weary Dunlop by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jeremy Lord

Meet Weary Dunlop by Claire Saxby, illustrated by Jeremy Lord (Random House Australia, 2015)

32 pages with colour illustrations, map and timeline

Subjects: World War Two, Australia, Singapore, Thailand, Burma, Ernest Dunlop, prisoners of war, junior fiction (Year 5-8)

Thanks to Claire Saxby for kindly sending me a copy of her new book. This is one of a series about “the extraordinary men and women who have shaped Australia’s history”. Others in the Meet… series are Ned Kelly, Mary Mackillop, Captain Cook, Douglas Mawson, Nancy Bird Walton and Banjo Patterson (with more titles promised soon).

“Weary” Dunlop (his nickname is explained inside) was an Australian army surgeon in WW2. His bravery, compassion, knowledge and skill helped to save the lives and bolster the spirits of fellow POWs on the Thai-Burma railway.

About the author
Claire Saxby's website is here
I love her description of her early reading habits“I have always loved reading. I used to go home from boarding school and read for days on end, only emerging to swim and eat. I love words. I love how they sound, the work they do, the images they create.”

About the illustrator
This is Jeremy Lord’s website, with a page about this book (and some illustrations) here
He also has an online store (for his prints, often Aussie-themed) where he describes himself as “a French/Aussie, Sydney based illustrator.”

From Jeremy Lord's website
Other books you might like
Meet the Anzacs, also by Claire Saxby, is another book in the same series.

NZ connections
Each year on 25 April, Anzac Day in Thailand is commemorated with a Dawn Service and Gunfire Breakfast at Hellfire Pass and a Memorial Service and Wreath Laying Ceremony at Kanchanaburi Allied War Cemetery.

People gather for Anzac Day in Hellfire Pass,  Kanchanaburi province, west of Bangkok, Thailand, on the route of the Thai-Burma railway.
People gather for Anzac Day in Hellfire Pass, Kanchanaburi province, Thailand,
on the route of the Thai-Burma railway. Photograph: Sakchai Lalit/AP
Things I didn’t know
What did I know about Sir (Ernest) Edward “Weary” Dunlop before reading this? Nothing! (So this book was a good place to start.) 

The Australian War Memorial bio says that "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."

After the war, he got married and continued both working as a surgeon and supporting former POWs of the Japanese. Over 10,000 people came to his state funeral in Melbourne in 1993 and portions of his ashes were later interred at Hellfire Pass and floated down the nearby river.

There is lots of info about him online – more here, including a video clip of the floating of his ashes which is a very moving scene.

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