There are a few other people who played important roles in this story …
Some were with Weary during those awful three years, some have helped keep the memories alive, some are continuing the story, all have contributed significantly.
Boon Pong and his daughter Paneen Subhawat
Weary said of Boonpong, quoting Shakespeare in “King Henry VI”:
“In thy face I see the map of honour, truth and loyalty”.
Despite great personal danger to both himself and his young daughter Paneen, Boon Pong smuggled life-saving medicines into the POW camp. His role was not disclosed by Weary, not even his closest friends and associates, until long after the end of the War.
In 1985 Weary gave an address at the ANZAC Day service in the Kanchanaburi War Cemetery. It included a tribute to those Thais who had helped us, particularly Boonpong Sirivejaphan, a shopkeeper who had risked torture and death to smuggle in money, medicine and the occasional radio battery with the vegetables he was under contract to supply to the prison camps along the river.
He was an agent for the “V” organisation based in the Thai-controlled Civilian Internees Camp in Bangkok. He also cashed prisoners cheques and lent money on watches and jewellery, all of which he kept to be redeemed after the war.
No one on that 1985 tour, except Weary, had ever heard of Boonpong. Only a select few at the time had been in the know. On return from the Tour, Keith Flanagan told Weary they wished to establish a Weary Dunlop Foundation of some sort. Weary immediately asked “What about Boonpong” and so the Weary Dunlop-Boonpong Exchange Fellowship was born.
England had recognised Boonpong’s cool courage with the George Cross; the Dutch awarded him the Orange-Nassau Cross. The English Far Eastern Prisoners of War Association (FEPOW) were more practical: they gave him a tractor. The Australian government managed a small monetary grant. Finally in 1998, at the opening of the Hellfire Pass POW Museum, the Australian government formally recognised Boonpong’s courage, by presenting his grandson, Veerawej Subhawat, with a certificate of appreciation for the ‘unrepayable debt’ owed to his grandfather and donated $50,000 to the Exchange Fellowship.
“Blue was Weary’s batman/driver in Greece, Crete, Tobruk and prison camps in Java and Thailand.
Donald ‘Scorp’ Stuart
‘Scorp’ shared his parents contempt for the establishment: His father, Julian, had been gaoled for three years as one of the leaders of the famous Queensland Shearers Strike in 1891. His mother was also an ardent socialist.
He ran foul of the Japanese when with two other rebellious spirits – Buck Peters and Alan Middleton – he refused to guard rifles to be handed over to the Japanese.
‘Scorp’, writer and bush lawyer, reversed the Army adage that you saluted the uniform, not the man. He saluted the man. When Weary was mentioned he practically tugged his forelock.
In one of his articles he recalled how the Ambonese soldiers of the Netherlands East Indies Army had called Weary ‘Singa yang diam’.
“I agree”, he wrote. “Weary Dunlop of the great heart and soft voice was, is and will ever be “The Quiet Lion” in the hearts and minds of all who knew him in our three and a half years of suffering in the prison camps of Asia. When we forget him we will be dead”.
Bill was was an RAF lorry driver. He was with Weary in Java. He lost both his hands and eyes, had his right leg shattered and was peppered with shrapnel when the Japanese made him uncover a booby-trapped ammunition dump.
Bill says he owes his life three times to Weary. The first was when he operated on his mangled body. The second was when the Dutch matron, and Bill himself, thought he should be “put down”. Weary vetoed the idea and encouraged Bill to live.
The third was when a Japanese captain ordered the immediate break-up of the hospital. To show him how impossible it was Weary took him to see Bill, another blinded soldier and two others paralysed from the waist down. The officer motioned to the guard to give Bill the coup de grace. Weary stepped in front of the bayonet and defied them to go through him first. (more here)
Tom Uren’s experiences as a P.O.W. slaving on the Burma-Thai Railway instilled in him a lifelong opposition to militarism and a belief in socialism and peaceful co-existence. Those beliefs made him one of the most respected Labour politicians of his generation. He enlisted and was sent to Timor where he was captured by the Japanese. The following years saw him suffer the brutality of the Burma-Thai Railway, then a spell in Japan itself. It was during this later period that he formed his undying belief that it was militarism and not the Japanese people who were to blame for the war and its terrible atrocities. At war’s end, he joined the Australian Labor Party, entering Federal Parliament in 1958.
His recollections at his address in Benalla, Vic. for the Weary Dunlop Centenary Celebrations demonstrated the deep admiration and affection he had for “Weary”.
Kanit Wanachote, a Thai philanthropist has created a ‘Peace Park’ on his 190 ha Kwai estate. A wooden statue of Weary stands in front of the Weary Dunlop Pavillion. Each year he stages something new, different and amazing for those on the Quiet Lion tour.
Weary met Kanit by chance during the 1985 tour to dedicated Hellfire Pass. Like most Thais he had been capitivated by the film “The Bridge on the River Kwai”. When Weary’s long boat pulled up along side his (typically Aussie, they were looking to buy a beer), he couldn’t believe his luck. The real-life protagonist of the true story had arrived on his doorstep. From that chance meeting Kanit became Weary’s devoted admirer and friend.