Improvised orthopaedic sandal : Private M A Bradford, 2/20 Battalion

Accession Number REL38344
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Brass, Canvas, Leather, Rubber, Steel, Wood
Location Main Bld: World War 2 Gallery: Gallery 4: Victory Over Japan
Maker Unknown
Place made Singapore: Changi
Date made 1942
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Improvised orthopaedic sandal, for the left foot, with a 55 mm high heel. The sole and heel have been cut from a single piece of wood. A thick rubber 'horseshoe' is nailed around the bottom edge of the heel. Additional thinner rubber strips were once nailed on either side of the sole but only the right hand strip remains. The upper straps are 30 mm wide and made from folded grey canvas. A single strap extends across the toe. Crossed straps form the heel and ankle sections. The ankle section fastens with a brass buckle on the outer side. All three straps are secured down each side of the wooden sole with a single leather strip held in place with nails.

History / Summary

Maxwell 'Max' Alexander Bradford, also nicknamed 'Brick', was born at Bredbo, NSW, on 16 June 1912. He gave his occupation as station hand when he enlisted in the Second AIF in Sydney Paddington on 20 June 1940. After initial training he was assigned to 2/20 Battalion as a private, with the service number NX33254. Late in 1940 he married Heather May McPherson at Waverley, NSW.

The battalion arrived in Malaya 18 February 1941 and initially operated around Port Dickson before moving to Seremban in April. Bradford was repeatedly hospitalised between late July and 21 December 1941 with skin and gastric problems, and infected feet. He rejoined his battalion at Mersing on 21 December, where they were already fighting the Japanese. The battalion was forced to withdraw from Mersing and arrived in Singapore on 31 January 1942, taking up a position on the northern flank of 22 Brigade's sector on the west coast of the island. Because of the wide frontage it had to cover, the platoons and sections of the battalion were widely dispersed, and when the Japanese began the invasion of Singapore on 8 February they were easily able to infiltrate the battalion's lines. Despite this the Australians initially inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and were able to withdraw in relatively good order to a north-south defensive perimeter on the Lim Kang Road. It was soon obvious that they would be overwhelmed in this position as well. The battalion was ordered to withdraw south, and in the process were scattered, never fighting as a unit again. Parties of troops took part in the desperate fighting retreat towards Singapore which ended in the Allied surrender on 15 February.

During the fighting, on 13 February, Bradford received severe shrapnel wounds to both legs and was evacuated to 13 Australian General Hospital, then operating at St Patrick's Boys School. His right leg was amputated at the knee. Although he had suffered a compound fracture of both the tibia and fibula on his left leg, a decision was made to try and save the leg. Bradford moved with the hospital when it relocated to Selarang Barracks on 22-23 February, and then to Roberts Barracks, where it merged with the British hospital on 6 March. He was judged to be convalescent by the middle of April and was discharged from hospital. Bradford's remaining leg was left deformed and bowed and a special support sandal with a raised heel, to relieve the pressure on the contracted tendons in his calf, was later made for him at Changi POW Camp. A wooden 'peg' type leg was made for the stump on his right leg. Bradford's wounds continued to trouble him throughout his captivity and he spent time in hospital again in 1943-1944. He was repatriated to Sydney on the Hospital Ship Oranje on 15 September 1945. Here he underwent corrective surgery on his leg until he was discharged at his own request, on compassionate grounds, on 27 June 1946. Australian War Memorial photograph 019327 shows Bradford wearing the sandal in Changi Prison Camp in 1945 shortly before he returned to Australia.