Birthday: July 12, 1907
Died At Age: 85
Sun Sign: Cancer
Also Known As: Lieutenant Colonel Sir Ernest Edward
Born in: Wangaratta
Famous as: Prisoner of War
Died on: July 2, 1993
place of death: Melbourne
education: Monash University, Parkville campus, University of Melbourne
awards: Australian of the Year
Weary Dunlop was an Australian surgeon who was captured by the Japanese during the World War II. He received much acclaim for his leadership skills and bravery in captivity. A graduate of the University of Melbourne with first class honors in pharmacy and in medicine, he was commissioned into the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1939. He was serving as a surgeon during World War II when he became a prisoner-of-war in 1942. He was among the 106 Australian doctors captured by the Japanese and was placed in charge of prisoner-of-war camps in Java by his captors. After being held in a number of camps, he was eventually moved to the Thai-Burma railway where he, along with the other prisoners was forced into strenuous labor with inadequate food and regular physical punishments. But even in the harshest of circumstances, he maintained his optimism and helped to ease other prisoners’ pain with his skills as a doctor. A courageous human being, he not only healed his fellow prisoners, but also boosted their morale which helped to keep the survival rates of the Australian prisoners higher than those of other nationalities. He survived the war and in the post-war years he devoted himself to the health and welfare of former prisoners-of-war.
Childhood & Early Life
Ernest Edward "Weary" Dunlop was born on 12 July 1907, in Major Plains, Victoria. His parents were James and Alice, and he had one brother named Alan.
He attended Stewarton Public School and Benalla High School. After completing his schooling he began an apprenticeship in pharmacy in 1924.
He moved to Melbourne in 1927 to attend the Victorian College of Pharmacy. A brilliant student, he excelled in his studies and in 1930, he was awarded a scholarship to study medicine at Ormond College, Melbourne University.
He performed well in his studies and was also an active sportsman, representing Australia at the rugby union in 1932. Here he acquired the nickname “Weary” as a reference to his last name Dunlop, a popular brand of tyres ("tired" like a Dunlop tyre). He graduated in 1934 with first class honors in pharmacy and in medicine.
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Weary Dunlop embarked on a medical career in 1935 by joining the Royal Melbourne Hospital as a junior resident. The next year he was appointed Senior Surgical Resident.
In 1937, he joined the Children's Hospital as Resident and graduated as Master of Surgery from Melbourne University the same year.
In 1938 he sailed to London aboard the SS Ormonde as the ship's medical officer. There he attended St Bartholomew's Medical School and became a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. While in Britain he was deeply influenced by his mentors Professor Grey-Turner and Sir Thomas Dunhill and resolved to follow their example.
When the World War II broke out, Weary Dunlop was working as a surgeon at St Mary's Hospital, Paddington. He immediately enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps (6th Division) in 1939 with the rank of Captain.
He was posted as Medical Officer at the headquarters of the Australian Overseas Base in Jerusalem, and was appointed Acting Assistant Director of Medical Services. In 1940, he was promoted to Major.
He then served in Greece and Crete as AIF Medical Liaison Officer on the staff of the Deputy Director of Medical Services of Lusterforce. The Australian Divisions were withdrawn from the Middle East for home defense and Dunlop was transferred to Java where he was promoted to temporary Lt Colonel in 1942.
Dunlop was in command of No.1 Allied General Hospital at Bandung when the Japanese captured the region along with the hospital and he was taken prisoner-of-war along with several other doctors.
He displayed great leadership skills which prompted his captors to place him in charge of prisoner-of-war camps in Java. After being held in a number of camps in Java, the Australian prisoners including Dunlop were transferred to Singapore.
From Singapore, he was sent to Thailand in 1943 as in charge of "Dunlop Force" to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. The prisoners-of-war were used as forced laborers in the railway work and made to toil under the most unfavorable circumstances. Food was scarce, and the prisoners were regularly subjected to beatings.
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To add to the prisoners’ misery, disease was rampant and there were no medical supplies. Yet Weary Dunlop worked the best he could to help the sick and the dying prisoners, and boosted their morale. He even defied his captors to help his fellow prisoners, often putting his own life in risk.
The war ended in 1945 and Dunlop was appointed Lt Colonel. He was demobilized in 1946 and proceeded to establish his private medical practice which proved to be a successful one.
In 1956 he became Consultant Surgeon to the Peter MacCallum Clinic and appointed the Senior Consultant at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1964. He served as the medical officer for the British Phosphate Commission from 1973 to 1981.
Alongside his medical practice he also supported many social, educational and sporting associations. He was actively involved with ex-prisoner of war and veterans associations and even served as federal president of the Ex-POW Association of Australia for a while.
As a prisoner-of-war, he displayed great courage even in the most horrible circumstances and tended to the sick and dying with utmost determination even when there were no medical supplies. He boosted the morale of fellow prisoners and is credited to be one of the reasons why Australian survival rates were the highest.
Awards & Achievements
Weary Dunlop was made Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George in 1965.
In 1988 he was named one of '200 Great Australians.'
In 1993, he was made Knight Grand Cross (1st Class) of the Most Noble Order of the Royal Crown of Thailand.
He was also an Honorary Fellow of the Imperial College London and of the Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh.
Personal Life & Legacy
He became engaged to Helen Ferguson in June l940. But the couple could get married only a few years later in 1945 due to the World War II. They had two sons, John and Alexander.
He died on 2 July 1993, at the age of 85.