Autographed Japanese undershirt : Private S Herron, 2/20 Battalion

Place Asia: Japan
Accession Number REL/01823
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Calico; Embroidery cotton thread; Plastic
Maker Unknown
Place made Japan
Date made c 1944-1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Japanese issue unbleached calico undershirt with a low stand collar, narrow yoke, single left breast pocket with a rectangular flap, and long sleeves without cuffs. The shirt fastens down the front with four green glass buttons and the pocket flap with single button. The rounded shirt tail is longer than the front. There are Japanese manufacturer's marks and accepatance stamps on the lower left front. The entire body of the shirt, and part of the sleeves, are covered in indelible pencil signatures and addresses, most of which have been over embroidered in red, blue, green, yellow and mauve stem stitch. Those signatures on the sleeves which have not been embroidered are now illegible. The name of the owner of the shirt has been machine embroidered on the left sleeve in the 1970s, 'STAN HERRON 2/20 Bn'. There is a brown and green embroidered cartoon on the back of the shirt with the caption '"Who called the cook a b_?" "Who called the b_ a cook!".

History / Summary

NX48180 Private Stanley Herron was born in England, in 1914, and later immigrated to Australia. He enlisted for service in the Second World War in Sydney on 24 September 1941 and served first with 2/19 Battalion. The battalion was posted to Malaya with 8th Division, and Herron later transferred to 2/20 Battalion. He escaped from Singapore on a Chinese boat shortly before the surrender to the Japanese and reached Java, where he joined an Australian-bound ship. It was bombed by the Japanese and Herron ended up in a lifeboat. After drifting for five days he landed on Java again. He escaped to the hills and joined a guerrilla group but was forced to surrender to the Japanese when they threatened wholesale killing of the local villagers. He was taken to Singapore and then sent to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. He avoided a double amputation of his feet, due to tropical ulcers, after doctors applied maggots to clean them out, and subsequently returned to Changi. He was sent by sea to work in the coal mines in the mountains of Japan and it was here at the Fukuoka Camp that he was issued with the calico undershirt. Herron did not wear the shirt but kept it under the floorboards taking it out for fellow prisoners to sign in indelible pencil. The shirt eventually had about 200 names on it, some of them added immediately after his release, before he was repatriated to Australia.

The signatures include those of fellow 8th Division prisoners of war and those of survivors from HMAS Perth and USS Houston who were sunk in Sunda Strait in 1942. The cartoon about the cook refers to Herron's experience as a cook in the mines. Herron was discharged from the army on 3 December 1945. His wife Betty embroidered over the names after the war when she noticed that the pencilled signatures and addresses were fading. Before she donated the shirt to the Australian War Memorial she realised that her husband, who had died in 1967, has never signed the shirt, so she had his name machine embroidered on the left sleeve.

The names of the following Australians have been identified on the shirt: VX45260 Corporal Ian James Cameron, 2/29 Battalion; QX14696 Warrant Officer Class Two John Michael Collins, 2/10 Field Regiment; NX72294 Sapper Robert Davis, 2/12 Field Company; B3093 Able Seaman Charles Arthur Goodchap, HMAS PERTH; QX13325 Gunner Charles Edward Helmhold, 2/10 Field Regiment; NX49013 Sergeant Colville Duffy, 2/20 Battalion; NX26885 Driver Vincent Joseph Augustine Leonard, 2/30 Battalion; VX56830 Private William Douglas Rhook, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; WX7355 Sapper Harry Roy Ribbins, 2/6 RAE; NX25602 Driver James Hynd Richardson, AASC; QX14246 Signalman Robert Francis Rolfe, 8 Corps of Signals; VX47141 Private Harry Victor Rooke, 2/29 Battalion; NX42406 Sapper Thomas Sisson, 2/12 Field Company; NX37543 Lance Sergeant Oswald Victor Skinner, 2/30 Battalion; VX56184 Private Kenneth James Swanson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; VX24166 Private Kenneth Cicil Tingate, 2/29 Battalion; VX34519 Corporal Richard Lloyd Trewin, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; NX58037 Sergeant Ronald Lawrence Tulloch, Headquarters 8 Division; NX49365 Private Donald Leo Walker, 2/18 Battalion; NX28436 Gunner Kenneth William Wills, 2/15 Battalion; NX33605 Signalman Noel Frederick Adamson, 8 Corps of Signals; NX72557 Private Frederick James Asser, 2/19 INF; NX67807 Sapper Noel Robert Baker, 2/12 Field Company; VX55245 Private Frederick James Barnstable, 2/2 Australian Pioneer Battalion; VX61315 Private George Gregory Beavis, 4 Australian RES MT; NX65921 Corporal Frederick Joseph Bentley, 2/6 Field Company; NX59568 Sapper Stanley Charles Booth, 2/6 Field Company; NX35494 Driver Stanley Brodie Cannon, 2/19 Battalion; S5930 Able Seaman Francis Charles Chattaway, HMAS PERTH; VX47817 Corporal Charles Edward Clark, 2/29 Battalion; NX45053 Private John Arthur Cooper, 2/19 Battalion; 22886 Able Seaman Ronald Frederick Crick, HMAS PERTH; NX35317 Private Robert Henry Darling, 2/19 Battalion; QX15584 Gunner Victor Robert James Draney, 2/10 Field Regiment; NX66461 Sapper Duncan Campbell Ferguson, 2/6 Field Company; VX19538 Corporal William Finch, 2/2 Australian Pioneer Battalion; NX23295 Private Fred Gilbert, 2/18 Battalion; VX56017 Private Richard Gill, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; QX10431 Lance Corporal Robert Leslie Gourley, 2/26 Battalion; NX48180 Private Stanley Heron, 2/20 Battalion; NX54516 Sapper Arthur George Holloman, 2/12 Field Company; NX4734 Driver William Thomas Hudson, 105 General Transport Company; NX29972 Corporal John Robert Israel, 2/18 Battalion; NX26566 Gunner Eric John Jenner, 2/15 Field Regiment; NX69341 Driver William Killian, 2/3 Reserve M T Company; NX30981 Gunner Timothy Bayton Lee, 2/15 Field Regiment; WX16572 Private Neil Ormiston Macpherson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; VX45047 Corporal Ernest Marson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; WX13285 Private Jack Maude, 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion; NX71593 Driver James Patrich McCraw, 2/3 MT; VX38580 Gunner Keith Ross McKenzie, 4 Anti Tank Regiment; NX31833 Lance Corporal John Harold McQuire, 2/12 Field Company; NX52577 Private John Stevenson Meek, 2/20 Battalion; VX22505 Private Micheal Norton, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; X19734 Corporal William George Nutt, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; NX17759 Sapper Walter Andrew Phillips, 2/6 Field Company; NX16288 Sapper Thomas Victor Phillips, 2/6 Field Company; QX12254 Private George Albert Pill, 2/26 Battalion; VX23691 Lance Sergeant William John Reilly, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion; VX8241 Private William Alfred Simpkins, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion.