Changi quilt: detail
Changi quilt presented to wounded Australian soldiers
One of three signature quilts made by some of the 400 civilian female internees in Changi Prison during the first six months of their captivity, from March 1942. This one was made for the Australian Red Cross. A second made for the Japanese equivalent of the Red Cross is also held by the AWM. The third quilt is held by the British Red Cross. The quilts were the idea of a Canadian internee, Mrs Ethel Mulvany, who had been a Red Cross representative in Singapore. The making of the quilts was designed to alleviate boredom, boost morale and to pass information to men in other camps that the women and children were alive [however many of the women who made squares were unmarried or previously widowed]. Mrs Mulvany secured the permission of the Japanese commandant to pass the quilts, ostensibly made for the 'wounded' as stated on the back of each quilt, to Changi hospitals. It is not known if the quilts ever travelled further than this, or how many men actually saw them. Each woman was asked to put something of herself into her square. As a result some squares contain quite obvious messages, some have concealed meanings [the key to many of these is not known] and others are simply decorative. While the Japanese tolerated the word 'gaol' on the quilts [they may not have been familiar with the word], the word 'prison' was not acceptable so when Mrs Mulvany came to assemble the quilt she had to unpick the word when it occurred. The work of nine Australian women is represented on this quilt: Dr Margaret Smallwood, Sheila Allen, Judy Good, Helen Latta, Vera McIntyre, Betsey Millard, Nea Barnes, May Watson and Eunice Austin-Hofer. It is likely that a quilt was made for the Australian Red Cross not because there were many Australian internees, but because it was assumed that the Australian Red Cross would play a major part in supplying aid to Singapore and POWs in Asia.
The quilt is made up of 66 embroidered squares, each signed in embroidery with the maker(s) name. All the squares are edged with turkey red chain-stitch. The squares are bounded by a broad white cotton border, and the same material has been used as a backing. The back of the quilt has red embroidery stating “Presented by the women of Changi internment camp 1942 to the wounded Australian soldiers with our sympathy for their suffering. It is our wish that on the cessation of hostilities that this quilt be presented to the Australian Red Cross Society. It is advisable to dryclean this quilt”.
Square 1 - Red stem-stitched outlines of three flowers, with stems and leaves in dark cream thread. Name embroidered in cream E.M. Moir. The embroidery has been done over a blue indelible pencil design. Square 2 - Five flowers, in mauve, yellow, red and blue, with stems and leaves in green, on a green hill. The sky is blue and the sun and its rays yellow. Executed in stem and running-stitch. White chain-stitch name Mary Thomas. Square 3 - Dark brown stem-stitched wall with pink buttonhole-stitch hollyhocks set against it. There are smaller flowers and foliage, in yellow, orange, purple, mauve and green chain, stem and satin-stitch, and green satin-stitched cyprus trees. Signature in green I.D. Brown Square 4 - Elongated chain-stitch daisies in brown, beige, light blue, cream and pink, all with brown centres, contained within a cream herringbone-stitch rectangular border. A triangle in each corner of the rectangle is filled with the daisies and in the centre is a pale grey stem-stitch signature May Watson 1942. Square 5 - Stem-stitch outline of a yellow bear riding a pink and black tricycle. The tricycle is towing another yellow bear sitting in a mauve cart with pink wheels. The features of the bears are in black. Black stem-stitch signature S. Blackman. Square 6 - Bunch of chain-stitch flowers and foliage in dark blue, light blue, pink and white. Flowers have yellow centre dots. Signature in brown stem-stitch Mary P. Scott. Square 7 - Appliqued flowers made from cut-out floral print fabric in pink, blue and brown. The applique is edged with cream button-hole stitch. Signature in cream stem-stitch E.Gough. Square 8 - Blue, mauve and silver-grey stem-stitch wall with figure of a woman in a red dress sitting in the lower right corner. She has a thought bubble of a tree with a blue and cream trunk, green leaves and pink flowers; a brown, white and black loaf of bread; a red, green and black bottle with wine label, and words “And thou beside me in the wilderness” [a misquote of Omar Khayyam]. Upper right corner has signature in red: Changi E. Austen-Hofer. Square 9 - Single applique, four-petalled, buff coloured flower edged with red button-hole stitch. Signature in cream stem-stitch Mrs. Shorthouse. Square 10 - Three green stem-stitch circles bearing respectively, purple and green thistle, mauve and green heather, and blue and green bluebells. Underneath in green stem-stitch “There will always be an England as long as Scotland stands”. E.H.H. Murphy. Square 11 - Dark brown and silver-grey butterfly surrounded by yellow, pink and mauve chain-stitch daisies with pale-green satin-stitch leaves. Cream satin-stitch signature B. Millard and mauve satin-stitch signature Nea Barnes. Square 12 - Running, satin and chain-stitch picture of an open-barred window in a brick prison cell, showing truckle bed with blanket and pillow, packing-case table with mug, bucket, dress on a hanger, and a bra and two pairs of panties drying on a line. Colours- cream, beige, light blue, dark green and pink. Above, in cream satin-stitch “A room with a view” and M. Small [rest of signature in seam - Smallwood] Square 13 - Wreath of light blue wool cross-stitch flowers with yellow centres and pale green leaves. Signature in yellow wool cross-stitch A.M.P. Square 14 - White stem-stitched Highland Terrier; pale green leaves. Signature in yellow wool cross-stitch A.M.P and white stem-stitched Highland Terrier with brown eye, nose and claws, standing on olive green grass. Olive green stem-stitch signature Anne Rackham. Square 15 - Appliqued map of Scotland in fine pink/blue/yellow check fabric that has an overall tartan effect. Edged with silver-grey buttonhole stitch. Two signatures stem-stitched in the same grey J. McIvor and S.K. McKenzie. Brown stain above the M of McKenzie. Square 16 - Stem-stitch and elongated chain-stitch daisies and foliage with curved stems and leaves. Foliage is light green and daisies red, silver-grey and yellow. Signature in black stem-stitch B. Smalley. Square 17 - Union Jack in red, white and lavender stem-stitch, flying from a black staff. Signature in red stem-stitch [some stitches missing] A. LaCloche. Square 18 - Toddler in yellow stem-stitch with curl on top of head, black eyes, pink mouth, and a wreath of pink and mauve flowers on its head. The child is seated on a mauve stool placed on a pink rug with a black zig-zag edge. Black stem-stitch signature E. Blackman. Square 19 - Red stem-stitch heart with silver-grey words within it Good Luck. Happy Days 1942. Underneath in red A.III Cell.7 Changi. Signature in silver grey Violet von Hagt. Square 20 - Appliqued Dolly Varden figure with mauve satin poke-bonnet and sash and pale blue satin dress with puffed sleeves. Dress lifts at back to show four rows of appliqued lace petticoat. Bonnet has green satin-stitch ribbons and yellow flowers. Dress is over embroidered in a sprig pattern of yellow French knot flowers and green chain-stitch leaves. The figure is set against a border of red, puce, pink, blue, cream and yellow flowers in stem and chain-stitch and French knots. There are smaller groups of similar flowers on both bottom corners. Embroidered signature in green stem-stitch F.E. Russell-Davis (Freda). Square 21 - Green satin-stitch map of Australia with dark brown kangaroo and green grass within it. Top left corner has a pale grey aeroplane and bottom left corner a passenger ship in black and cream on a pale blue sea. Shadow lettering in red stem-stitch at top Australia and bottom Changi. Signature in red stem-stitch, bottom right corner Sheila Allen 1st May 1942. The word Prison beside the word Changi at bottom has been drawn in pencil but over stitching has been removed. Square 22 - Dark blue and red stem-stitch figure of a Michelin tyre type figure that is knitting and the words Tiny, William, Joe, Suge?, Joe, Watty, Alla. Signature Rodney Reilly. Square 23 - Three stem and satin-stitch thistles in shades of green, mauve and brown, within a green circle held by a sprig of heather, in the same colours, tied with a green bow. Signature in green stem-stitch J.McCubbin. Square 24 - Red, yellow and green satin-stitch maple leaves with Canada above them. Below signatures in satin and stem-stitch M.Burns and E.Mulvany. Square 25 - Stem and satin-stitch scene of Penang in green, beige, cream and blue, showing beach, native boat on the water, hills, a cloud and a palm tree, all within a beige stem-stitch rectangle. Penang and signature Sue Williams in blue. Square 26 - Three stylised pink flowers and leaves in satin-stitch, in shades of pink and green, within a double green circle. Pink stem-stitch words within the circle edges Geraldine Cogan Changi Singapore 1942. Square 27 - Vase or basket of flowers in shades of yellow, rust, dark cream and green, in a combination of satin, elongated chain, stem and buttonhole-stitches. Signature in dark cream stem-stitch Nora J.Jones. Square 28 - Embroidered hat badge of the Gordon Highlanders in silver, grey, green, brown, yellow and dark blue, showing antlered stag within a wreath, surmounted by a crown. Underneath the regimental motto Bydand [watchful]. Signature in puce stem-stitch Diana Logan. Above, also in puce, Changi, 1942. The word prison is sketched; in pencil but the stitching has been removed. Square 29 - Appliqued fabric butterfly edged with dark blue button-hole stitch. Antennae and pattern on wings in dark blue stem-stitch. Signature in dark blue stem-stitch Martha McMorine. Square 30 - Dark blue stem-stitch passenger liner on a silver-grey sea, leaving the palm trees (also dark blue) of Singapore behind. Beneath the words, on dark blue, Homeward Bound. Signature in black stem-stitch M.Elizabeth Ennis. Square 31 - Fine black chain-stitch head of a Tommy in a steel helmet, giving the thumbs-up. Signature Eileen Jones. Square 32 - Stem and satin-stitch embroidery of Sir Francis Drake playing bowls at Plymouth before setting out to defeat the Spanish Armada in 1588. Shows Sir Francis smoking a pipe and bowling, part of a galleon and houses, and the words Rose Inne, Plymouth Hoe 1588. Colours - black, cream, blue, puce and green. Signature in puce stem-stitch H.G. Lacey. Square 33 - Black, pink and cream stem-stitch image of Changi Prison, seen from behind bars, with a Japanese flag flying from the central tower. Signature in black prison arrows K.Heath. Square 34 - Mauve, green, grey, dark blue and cream stem-stitch figure of a man shooting on the moors. There are flowers and other vegetation in the foreground and 1942 in green issuing from the gun barrel. Signature in mauve stem-stitch A.L. Griffith-Jones. Square 35 - Royal blue and red stem-stitch map of the Malay Peninsula and Singapore, with arrows linking the towns of Alar Star, Taiping, Sarambon and Changi. Verse and signature in red I wandered down a long long trail from Alar Star to Changi gaol. Dorothy Mather. Square 36 - Thatched cottage with latticed windows set in a flower garden. Embroidery in a combination of satin, stem and buttonhole-stitches and green, yellow, blue, mauve, brown and different pink wools mixed with green cotton embroidery thread. Signature in black stem-stitch Marjorie Watson. Square 37 - Pink, mauve, green, yellow and black pansies and a daisy. Stem-stitch signature in pink and green Marion Williams; grey chain-stitch signature P J Mitchell and grey stem-stitch signature K.Kennard. Square 38 - Appliqued fabric scene of the New Zealand mountains and a lake. Fabrics in white, blues, mauve and brown have been used. Green satin-stitch has been used to edge and further define the scene. Beneath in blue stem-stitch New Zealand Mountains G.Tompkins. Square 39 - Red stem-stitch map of England with light blue embroidered Scotland, England, Wales, North Sea, Irish Sea, English Channel, Edinburgh, Cardiff and London. Top right has buttonhole-edged cloud in blue with red England, Scotland & Wales. Red stem-stitch signature Mary C.C.C.Hughes. Square 40 - Black stem-stitch figure of a Scottish terrier in centre, with black, white and yellow satin-stitch figure of Jiminy Cricket in top left corner. Signature in black stem-stitch M.Bell. Square 41 - Red, white and blue stem-stitch V for Victory, filled with blue and pink satin-stitch flowers with green leaves. Signature in blue stem-stitch Bridget Hegarty. Square 42 - Dark green armoured figure of St George fighting a red dragon blowing red and yellow fire. Signature in cream stem-stitch V.McIntyre. Square 43 - Blue and green applique fabric flowers in a basket. Blue flowers are edged with black satin stitch and defined with blue and orange thread. Leaves and stems are over-sewn with black and defined with various shades of green. Basket is embroidered in black. Black stem-stitch signatures D.Corley and G.Gottleib. Square 44 - Grey wool representation of a wall. The lines of wool are held in place by cram cotton over-stitching. Above in red embroidery Changi holiday home. Beneath, also in red, Valerie Burgin Cell 38 A.V. [Stitching missing in some places] Square 45 - Satin-stitch representation of a tropical fruit or vegetable? in two shades of green. Green stem-stitch signature Louise Burstall. Square 46 - Red and white satin-stitch, four-armed cross-roads sign. Arms bear respectively the words Tomorrow, today, everyday and yesterday. Above is 1942 and below ChangiI. Signature in same colours M.A.Webster. Square 47 - Yellow ochre, grey, light green, black, white and red representation of a house in Malacca with trees, palms and a mountain done in stem and satin- stitching and cross-hatching. Underneath Malacca in red stem-stitch. Signature above in yellow ochre stem-stitch Betty Bond 24.5.42. Square 48 - Brown stem-stitch figure of a male skier, set against mountains. Signature in same colour Joan Stanley-Cary. Square 49 - Arabesque, lyre-shaped design in pink, mauve and pale green stem-stitch. The following signatures etc are easily legible: Thumbs Up, G Tompkins, The Crypt, Helen Latta, Judy Good, Irene Whitehead, Joah Boston, Ena Hunt, Isobel Grist, Barbara Walker, J.H. Nealson and M.S.MacDonald. Each arabesque ends with a tiny emboidered place name e.g. Ipoh. Square 50 - Heavy yellow cotton stem and satin-stitch embroidery of the regimental collar badge of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders showing interlocking wreaths containing a Scottish wild cat and a boar respectively. The scrolls to contain the mottos [Sans Peur and Ne Oblivis Caris] have been embroidered in but the mottos have not been filled in. Signature in black stem-stitch Helen Willis. Square 51 - Brown and cream chain and stem-stitch figure of a Tommy with a steel helmet, pack and rifle, and brown stem-stitch hands giving the thumbs-up sign. The soldier is dreaming of Hovis bread, wine, cigarettes, women and beer, which are contained within a pink stem-stitch bubble. Dark blue stem-stitch signature SHEILA EARLY. Square 52 - Black fabric applique and black and brown satin and running-stitch showing a small figure sitting in a shaft of sunlight in a Changi cell, with the words How long O Lord how long.. Underneath the signatures Joan MacIntosh-Whyte and Iris G. Parfitt Cell 2G AIII. Square 53 - Black, red and grey stem-stitch winged alarm clock in top left corner with three walnuts? in lower right corner and signature in centre F.Bloom. Square 54 - All over pattern of chain-stitch flowers in shades of pink, mauve, blue, red and green. Plain fabric diamond shape in centre bears green embroidered signature Kay Francis. Square 55 - Appliqued floral fabric in pale blue, cream and grey [same fabric as Square 66] edged with silver-grey buttonhole-stitch. Signature in silver-grey stem-stitch Lucy Fletcher. Square 56 - Stem and running-stitch representation, in black, brown, cream, yellow, red, green and pink, of Changi Hairdresser A.III Cell 7. Shows stool, hairdresser, broom, bench with scissors, brush etc, and a mirror, all set against a black grid. Notice reads Hours 10-12.30 Daily except Sunday. Red stem-stitch signature Ethne von Hagt. Square 57 - Cut out and appliqued printed fabric of a Scots piper. Signature in grey back-stitch O.Sowerby. Square 58 - Pink stem-stitch tudor rose with cream french knot centre and cream stem-stitch leaves and stalk. Beneath, within a pink stem-stitch scroll a mauve signature Katherine de Moubray. Square 59 - Satin and stem-stitch figures in black, red, mauve, blue, brown and yellow of two of the Seven Dwarfs from Disney's Snow White. Top left is a black embroidered menu Bubor Soup - Rice Limejuice Rice Pudding. Lower right is a red embroidered menu Porridge Cold Ham - Rice Soup - Pickles Bun - Butter Cheese. Across the centre in black There is always a tomorrow. Signature in black Isobel Jenkins (R.A.M.C.). Square 60 - Wreath of pale grey satin-stitch flowers with yellow centres and green stems and leaves. Signature in black E.Aldworth. Square 61 - Bunch of flowers in elongated chain-stitch, with french knot centres, and stem and satin-stitch leaves and stems. Flowers in pink, gold and blue, with gold centres; leaves in green. Pink signature Harness. Square 62 - Blue stem-stitch dove of peace. Red stem-stitch signature D. Cornelius. Square 63 - Stem and satin-stitch wreath of flowers with a bee and a butterfly. Flowers in orange, mauve, cream and silver-grey with green stems. Beige chain-stitch signature S. (or G) FR...[disappears into seam]. Square 64 - Two figures cut out of brown fabric and appliqued with cream button-hole stitch. They have green wool hair, yellow eyebrows, cream eyes and teeth, red noses, mouths and ties. One has embroidered in black above it Dungie, the other Dungetta [refers to Mrs Uniake's son and daughter interned with her]. Black stem-stitch signature M.Uniake. Square 65 - Black, beige, green and mauve stem and satin-stitch embroidery of a palm tree and a thistle. Mauve stem-stitch signature Judy Good. Square 66 - Appliqued blue, green, grey and cream floral fabric [same fabric as Square 55] edged with grey buttonhole-stitch. Signature in dark grey stem-stitch T Auger.