On 12 July 1993 there was a State funeral in St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne for Sir Edward Dunlop, AC, CMG, OBE, Knight Grand Cross (First Class) of the Crown of Thailand and too many other titles, honorary degrees and fellowships to mention. It would have been his 86th birthday.
In his eulogy former Governor General Sir Ninian Stephen said:
‘Weary had attained a lone Australian eminence, perhaps shared only by Douglas Mawson, of sustained heroism and superb achievement; that he was a hero when Australia had a dearth of heroes and a saint who would have been surprised to have heard himself described as one.’
Read the full transcript of Sir Ninian’s Eulogy.
“Colonel Dunlop kept devotedly to his rounds. His legs bandaged for ulcers, his face etched with responsibility and sleeplessness, his cap as ever defiantly askew, he was our symbol of hope. More than ever now we thought, ‘If Weary goes we all go’.”
– Arch Flanagan
“When despair and death reached out to us Weary Dunlop stood fast,
a lighthouse of sanity in a universe of madness and suffering”
– Donald Stuart (2nd/3rd Machine Gun Battalion)
The congregation included the Prime Minister, Leader of the Opposition, former governors general and foreign dignitaries including the Japanese Ambassador. But former POWs, the men Weary Dunlop called his “old lags”, were given pride of place in the front pew. Among them was Bill Griffiths, the former British Army transport driver who had flown out from England with his wife Alice. Bill had lost his hands and eyes when the Japanese made him defuse a booby trap on Java 51 years before. Weary had stood between him and a Japanese bayonet and encouraged him to hang on when life seemed hopeless. Weary thought of Bill as a “legend of British pluck” who had become, like Sir Douglas Bader, an inspiration to others.
The two front pews in St Paul’s Cathedral in Melbourne were filled by the men Weary had called his “old lags”, his “band of brothers”. I was among those in the front row sitting next to Bill and Alice Griffiths and Ray Parkin.
After the funeral some of Weary’s ashes were spread on his farm at Smith’s Gully, Victoria. The rest went back to Thailand with us in 1994 – some to be scattered in Hellfire Pass but our share to be blessed as those of an enlightened soul by Buddist monks. Then in a ceremony planned in concert with Kanit Wanachote, we floated them down the River Kwai in a candlelit boat.
His sons, Alexander and John, launched the funeral boat as WA Scotch College piper, John Prowse played “The Flowers of the Forest”. Ten other boats followed. Five launched by our Australian party and five by Thais. One of the “Australians” was Akemi Hanzawa, a Japanese missionary, now living in Perth. We thought Weary would have liked that.
That night Kanit staged another banquet which ended with a fireworks display and Weary’s name spelt out across the hillside in letters of fire. It was a farewell fit for a King of the River.
Kanit Wanachote told us then that when we came again there would be a Weary Dunlop Peace Park.”