Hand-made guitar : Australian Prisoner of War, Changi

Accession Number RELAWM37036
Collection type Heraldry
Object type Heraldry
Physical description Brass; Copper; Mother of pearl (shell); Perspex; Tin-plated steel; Wood
Maker Unknown
Place made Singapore: Changi
Date made c 1942-1945
Conflict Second World War, 1939-1945

Hand-made wooden acoustic guitar. The sound board and back are timber with the sides made from old petrol tins into which names have been scatched. Legible inscriptions are, or appear to be, 'YARDBIRD SEARL, JOE PALOOKA, E J MOORE SYDNEY, CLAUDE RICHARDS, JACK BASTABLE, BOMBO SKIMMING, TOUGH CHAS, SLAP MURRAY, BIG JIM MEAKES, RALPH MARTIN, MARY LEWIS - AWAS DARWIN, PIERRE, THAILAND, BURMA, , L W DAY (THE BRIT), BESSIE SMITH DARWIN, D A SCOTT, JACKEY ROOT, HARRY FLETCHER, SUTHERLAND'. The neck and headstock are one piece of wood. The five tuning pegs are also wood. One tuning peg is missing. The neck features brass frets, four mother-of pearl fret markers and a perspex nut. The instrument is strung with three copper wound strings. There is no bridge.

History / Summary

This guitar was made in Changi by an unknown Australian POW. On his voyage home following liberation, he gave the guitar to a British merchant seaman, John Ferguson, in gratitude for the help and kindness shown to him throughout the voyage. After the war, Mr Ferguson returned to the UK and was manager of a small theatre in Livingston, Scotland where the singing artist Guy Mitchell was performing. When Guy Mitchell was about to tour Australia, the guitar was passed to him for return to this country. The guitar was eventually donated to the Australian War Memorial through the Western Australia Museum in 1974. Several of the names scratched into the side of the guitar appear to those of members of 10 Australian General Hospital (10 AGH).