Embroidered souvenir signature cloth : Mrs A M Cuthbe, Changi Prison

Accession Number REL/08533
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Cotton lace, Embroidery thread, Fine linen
Maker Cuthbe, Augusta Mary
Place made Singapore: Changi
Date made c 1942 - 1943
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Cream linen souvenir cloth, embroidered throughout in fine chainstitch and hand hemmed. The long sides are edged with hand applied cotton lace. The short sides have a decorative embroidered zigzag border in green. A black border covers the hemlines. In the centre is a roundel containing a green scroll with orange and black lettering 'CHANGI PRISON INTERNMENT CAMP SINGAPORE A.M. Cuthbe'. Around the edge is 'A little kindness oils the wheels of Life 8-3-42 to'. ' 23-9-45' has been pencilled in only. The cloth is covered with numerous signatures, originally written in pencil and then over embroidered by Mrs Cuthbe. The men's signatures are embroidered in black as follows: R Walker, S A Yees, Ted G Sellers, O F Hill, J P Compton, Kenneth V Cuthbe, J S Lowe, O O Hill, J Wilson, C F Snell, E M Cattell, R A Barlow, M Brisk, Norman Coulson, I C J Lidell, A Page, A W B Gill, J R Ormoton, C H Undershaw. The women's signatures are embroidered in green, blue, orange, gold, mauve as follows: Kit Kennard, Sheila M Early, Dorothy Rixon, Frances Fincher, Eve MacCarthy, Dorothy G Byron, Denise G J Jacob, Winifride Harriett, Eleanor Lamb, Jeanette Robinson, Mary Hodgson, Mildred Williams, Patricia Williams, H D White (Tea maker), J Dawson, Gladys Tompkins, Helen Beck, Gladys Gottleib, Doris Porley, Olive J Muller, Hilda Barbour, Eve M Sadler, Minnie L Rank, Dorothy N Mather, Joan MacIntosh-Whyte, Iris G F Parfitt, I M M Simmons, Dorothy Andrews, Helen Mackie, A Tostee, Catherine Bornernar, Norah Stafford, E M L Bryant, Kate H Grieg, M E Williams, Josephine Foss, E Burnham, P R Elliott, K Lena Elkins, Rose Donnell, Mini Sofeldt, Dorothy Cornelius, E Doherty, Mollie Jones, Constance G Sleep, Helen Dive, A L Griffith Jones, Buddy Bryant, Joan Draper, E M Hill (Mollie), E Bullock, M P Scott, H G Lacey, Cynthia Kock, Jean Keet, Dorothy MacDonald, Nora Chowns, Leona Palomar, Isabell Bentley, M L Burtstall, W F Barr, G E Jenning, Mary Uniake, M N Webster, Jean Henderson, Joyce Burgess.

History / Summary

This souvenir cloth was made by Mrs Augusta M Cuthbe who was a British civilian internee of the Japanese in Changi Prison and later at Syme Road, Singapore. Her husband, Mr Kenneth V Cuthbe, an engineer with the British colonial service in Malaya, was interned in the men's section of the prison. Both survived the war and later settled in Australia. Although Mrs Cuthbe was an accomplished embroiderer she did not make a square for any of the three Changi Quilts, and Mrs Ethel Mulvaney, the coordinator of the quilt making, is not represented on any of Mrs Cuthbe's embroideries. However, many of the signatories of Mrs Cuthbe's work also made squares for the quilts. She herself selected the signatures for her embroidery by approaching internees who had shown her any act of kindness. All of the black signatures on the cloth are of male civilian internees from Changi Prison, including Mrs Cuthbe's husband Kenneth.

Until recently, it was not known if the men's signatures were obtained in 1942 by passing the cloth into the men's section of Changi Prison or whether they were added to the cloth immediately after liberation in September 1945. However, information supplied in 2009 from a relative of Norman Coulson notes that he was 'killed on 17th July 1944 and from the previous October had probably been through beatings and torture', suggesting that an earlier date for collection of the signatures may be appropriate.