How the Tours Began
The Quiet Lion Tour originated after Keith Flanagan organised a return journey to Java, Singapore and Thailand for a number of ex-POWs wanting to retrace the journey they had taken with Weary from Java into the Thai jungle in 1943 as part of the ‘Dunlop Force’ in 1985.
The group included Weary Dunlop, as guest-of-honour, Bill Haskell and their wives as well as several well-known journalists. This trip reunited mates, many of whom had not seen each other since the war ended). The journalists sent back daily reports to Australia. Read some highlights of that first tour below.
Following this tour, on Keith’s initiative, other tours were organised. Bill Haskell, who had been on the Railway with Weary joined Keith and became the official ‘story-teller’.
In his booklet “The Quiet Lion”, Keith says
” I had planned and organised The Quiet Lion Tours with the clear-cut objective of passing on the legend of one extraordinary man’s courage, compassion and devotion to duty to a younger generation with the thought that it might influence them as it had us.”
Through Keith’s untiring work (Weary called him his ‘Promoter’), these tours continued and expanded to include the school students who have become a regular feature. Since 1997 over 200 students have participated and been exposed to the lives of these men who are role models representing virtues such as honour, courage, resourcefulness, compassion and devotion to duty. And their great humour and humility!
The tours have evolved with many other people giving their time and care, one of whom was Peter Winstanley, a former Lieut-colonel in the Army Reserve. He took over after Keith had a breakdown in 2001.
Peter expanded the concept when he incorporated the Burma-Thailand Railway Memorial Association (BTRMA). It’s objective was no longer just to tell Weary’s story, but “to perpetuate the memory of the privations and sacrifices of the allied military personnel and the selfless dedication of the medical personnel during the construction of the Burma-Thailand railway”. The tours are now run by the BTRMA, with Eric Wilson as the ‘story-teller’.