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 withdraw 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.