Flattened celluloid doll in paper wrapper : Private W C Davis, 2/18 Battalion

Accession Number REL34430
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Celluloid, Paper, String
Maker Unknown
Place made United Kingdom
Date made c 1930-1940
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Small celluloid kewpie-style doll with painted face and string-jointed arms and legs. Reverse is moulded with maker's name (Fore ??) and a '3' in a diamond. The doll is wrapped in a small paper parcel which is marked in pencil 'God send you back to us'. The doll's body has been flattened, resulting in the arms and legs (each pair still joined by string) being separated from the body.

History / Summary

Worn by NX40190 Private Walter Charles Davis, born on 18 November 1908 in Walcha, New South Wales. Davis lived in Tamworth with his aunt and uncle, Joyce and Bill, and their three children Ella, Barry and Edith. Enlisting in the army on 4 June 1940, Davis left Sydney on the SS Queen Mary for Singapore on 2 February 1941. When departing, Davis threw overboard a message in a bottle advising his family he was sailing to Singapore on board the Queen Mary, though this message did not reach his family until 1945. Davis served in the Malayan campaign with C Company of 2/18 Battalion, and became a prisoner of the Japanese when Singapore fell on 15 February 1942. Initially interned in Changi, Davis was later sent to Japan as part of J Force. Leaving Singapore on 16 May 1943, Davis arrived in Japan on 7 June and was then sent to Kobe where he worked in the Toyo Steel Mill, loading scrap metal into a blast furnace. On June 5 1945 an American bombing raid destroyed their lodgings, ‘Kobe House’, and Davis, along with 27 other Australians, was transferred to a camp at Nomachi. Davis, who had been suffering from recurring bouts of dysentery, died on 4 August 1945, eleven days before the end of the war. He was the only Australian to die at the camp in Nomachi. His body was cremated and the ashes were to be returned to Australia, however they were intercepted by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and were interred at the Labuan War Cemetery, Malaysia. Wal Davis's effects (see REL33300, REL34429 and PR03448) were returned to the family and included the fragile celluloid doll, still wrapped in paper and bearing the message 'God send you back to us'. Given the deprivations Davis had suffered, his ability to keep this item in relatively good condition through three years of imprisonment speaks of its importance to him as a touchstone for memories of his family.