ID numberART26425
Collection typeArt
TitleBrigadier Arthur Varley
MeasurementOverall: 50 x 36.8 cm
Object typeDrawing
MakerGriffin, Murray
Place madeSingapore: Changi
Date made1942
Physical descriptionpencil on paper
CopyrightAWM copyright
DescriptionBrigadier Arthur Leslie Varley (NX35005), MC, commanding officer of 2/18 Battalion and later of 22nd Australian Infantry Brigade. Varley was interned in Changi until May 1942 when he was appointed to command 'A' Force, consisting of approximately 3000 men drawn principally from 22 Australian Brigade. Initially, the men were sent to Burma to work on aerodromes and conditions were not considered too harsh. In July the 'A' Force was reorganised and sent to Thanbyuzayat, one end of the Burma-Thai railway, to begin work. Varley strove to make conditions as acceptable as possible for his men, by selling the effects of the dead to buy food for the sick, as well suggesting a proposal to the Japanese to allow the older men unfit for heavy work a lighter garden duty. This proposal was unsuccessful. After completing work on the railway in late 1943, Varley and his men were sent to Singapore to be sent on to Japan as labour. On 6 September 1944 approximately 2300 men under the command of Varley were loaded onto transport 'Rokyo Maru' and into very cramped conditions. On 12 September the convoy was attacked by United States submarines and the transport with the prisoners were hit. However, the ship remained afloat for 12 hours which allowed time for the men to escape. The Japanese crew were rescued soon after but the Allied prisoners were left littered in the ocean on bits of the ships debris and some life-rafts. The men in the rafts split into 2 groups and one headed west and the other, with Varley, headed east. The western group was rescued by a Japanese destroyer about 2 days later but Varley and the group that headed to the east did not survive.