A story within an inscription
Found at a Canberra book fair, was a beautiful yet worn, leather bound, gold-embossed volume. The inside inscription reads, ‘From Civilian Library Changi Camp 1942-1945.'
While the words "Changi Camp" are familiar to many Australians, "Civilian Library" might bring some surprise. Further inscriptions, two date stamps and pencilled date ranges, confirm the book's use as a library book. "P188" is probably a collection number.
For museums curators, the knowledge of who owned an item gives an immediate context. At the Memorial, an object's personal link to an Australian serviceman or woman is highly significant. In the case of this book, there was no such known link. All we had was a name on a page, which appeared to be "C.G. Herridge".
A search on the Second World War Nominal Roll yielded the record of serviceman V513245 Private Charles Grattan Herridge, 1 Signals Training Battalion. This record reveals that Private Herridge was not a POW and his date of discharge in June 1944, was many months before the liberation of Changi by the Allied forces. This could well be the same "C G Herridge". Sadly, the story of how Herridge came to possess this library book will probably remain a mystery.
During the Japanese occupation, at least two libraries were established at Changi. The POW library based at the AIF Education Centre and a Civilian Internment Camp library, gave respite from the boredom and harshness of internment daily life. Many thousands of books were shared, from "penny dreadfuls" to fine volumes taken from the famous Raffles Hotel library. On liberation, these books were probably dispersed and found new homes across the world.
The Memorial now has two Civilian Internment Camp library books: The Plays of Bernard Shaw and Robinson of England by John Drinkwater. In addition to three Changi POW library books, we also have a radio which was concealed in a book used at Changi. (RELAWM34782.001)
The Memorial is seeking further information about the Changi libraries. If you have information, please leave a comment or email the Research Centre firstname.lastname@example.org.