A peek inside Joey the ventriloquist doll

13 September 2017 by Dianne Rutherford

Joey the ventriloquist doll

Joey the ventriloquist doll, RELAWM30623

Joey the ventriloquist doll from Changi POW camp, owned by Tom Hussey, was used to entertain prisoners of war in Changi from December 1944 until their release.

This is the third “Joey” doll owned by Hussey during his service in the Second World War. He brought his first Joey to the war, but it was lost or destroyed during the fall of Singapore in 1942. The second Joey was made in Changi camp but had disintegrated by 1944 due to the tropical environment and harsh living conditions at Changi and on the Thai-Burma Railway. This third Joey was made in Changi in 1944 and was donated to the Memorial in 1947.

Last year we had an opportunity to closely inspect the doll’s construction by removing its jacket.

Head

Detail of Joey's face

Close up of Joey’s face

Joey’s features were designed by cartoonist and artist George Sprod and the doll was made in a wood workshop in Changi.

Cinderella illustration

“We’re going to the ball!” Illustration by George Sprod, 1944. You can see similarities between the ugly step sisters and Joey’s features. ART92211

The paint used on the doll was made from chalk and peanut oil. The red hair peeping out from under Joey’s cap is Hussy’s own hair. Joey’s mouth moved up and down and there is a ring at the neck to support the mechanism and stop the mouth moving too far down. The eyes probably moved from side to side, but are now static.

Joey's hair

The back of Joey’s head, showing his red hair under his white cap.

Body

Joey's back

Joey’s back showing the wooden frame, bamboo hoops and jointed arms.

Side view of Joey’s body.

Side view of Joey’s body.

Joey was made from materials found in Changi camp. His shoulders are carved wood and his arms and legs are jointed. Two hoops create the barrel shape of Joey’s torso which is supplemented by a piece of thick cardboard from an American Red Cross ration pack. The cardboard is in amazing condition and looks almost new. This feature was added in 1945 before Hussey left for home in mid-September. The legs and arms were articulated, made of carved wood, and were painted up to the joints.

Close up of Joey’s interior

Close up of Joey’s interior, showing the attachments for his arms, the stick to move his head, and strings presumably to move his eyes and mouth.

Detail of Joey's torso

Joey’s torso made from an American Red Cross ration pack box.

Joey's leg

Close-up of one of Joey’s legs, showing the knee joint.

Clothing

Joey’s outfit is made from a white, tropical civilian suit and two nurse’s celluloid cuffs joined together. This outfit has been signed by hundreds of prisoners. The signatures can be seen on an image taken of Joey and Tom in September 1945. They are still present today but have faded greatly since 1945.

Tom Hussey on a stretcher with Joey

Tom Hussey on a stretcher with Joey in September 1945, waiting to board the ship home after the end of his captivity. 116036

Joey's jacket

Close up of Joey’s jacket, showing some of the signatures and the plastic buttons that secure his jacket.

Close-up of Joey’s outfit

Close-up of Joey’s outfit, showing part of the “dickie” underneath Joey’s jacket, a black bowtie and a collar made by joining the two nurse’s cuffs together.

Back of Joey's jacket

The back of Joey’s jacket showing the slit through which Tom inserted his hand to operate Joey during performances.