Changi artificial leg

Second World War

After the fall of Singapore, Commonwealth prisoners were interned at the Selarang Barracks, Changi. For most of the Australians this was a temporary arrangement. They would join working parties sent across the Pacific, where thousands would die in brutal conditions.

At Changi, the prisoners were given more control over their administration than in most prisoner of war camps. Men in workshops produced items to maintain the camp, such as soap and brooms. A workshop was established to design and construct artificial limbs for the prisoners.

Warrant Officer Arthur Purdon of the 2/30th Battalion had experience in making artificial limbs and was tasked with setting up the workshop. With a handful of men and whatever materials they could scavenge, they were able to provide mobility to soldiers missing limbs.

This leg was made for Private Stephen Gleeson of the 2/4th Machine Gun Battalion. Gleeson arrived on Singapore during the last fighting on the Malayan Peninsular. Within less than a month of his arrival the Allied force on Singapore had surrendered. Gleeson was sent to work on the Burma–Thailand Railway as part of H Force, where his right leg was amputated below the knee. This prosthetic leg was made for him when he returned to Singapore. It provided him with support and mobility for the rest of his time in captivity.