During World War II, an Australian surgeon named Weary Dunlop was kidnapped by the Japanese. He was praised for his leadership abilities and bravery while in captivity. He was commissioned into the Australian Army Medical Corps in 1939 after graduating from the University of Melbourne with first class honors in pharmacy and medicine. During World War II, he worked as a surgeon and was taken prisoner of war in 1942. He was one of 106 Australian doctors kidnapped by the Japanese, and his captors put him in charge of prisoner-of-war camps in Java. After being incarcerated in a succession of camps, he was eventually transferred to the Thai-Burma railway, where he and the other inmates were forced to work long hours with little food and were subjected to physical abuse on a regular basis. But, even in the most trying of circumstances, he kept his positivity and used his medical abilities to help other inmates. He was a brave human being who not only healed his fellow inmates, but also raised their morale, allowing Australian prisoners to survive longer than those of other countries. He survived the war and spent the years after it committed to the health and wellbeing of former POWs.
Childhood and Adolescence
Ernest Edward “Weary” Dunlop was born in Major Plains, Victoria, on July 12, 1907. James and Alice were his parents, and he had one brother named Alan.
Stewarton Public School and Benalla High School were his schools of choice. In 1924, he began an apprenticeship in pharmacy after finishing his education.
In 1927, he travelled to Melbourne to study pharmacy at the Victorian College of Pharmacy. He was a talented student who excelled in his studies and was offered a scholarship to study medicine at Melbourne University’s Ormond College in 1930.
He excelled in school and was also a competitive athlete, representing Australia in rugby union in 1932. He got the moniker “Weary” because of his last name Dunlop, which is a popular tyre brand (“tired” like a Dunlop tyre). In 1934, he received first-class honors in pharmacy and medicine.
A Career of Edward Dunlop
Weary Dunlop began his medical career as a junior resident at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1935. He was promoted to Senior Surgical Resident the following year.
He started as a Resident at the Children’s Hospital in 1937 and graduated from Melbourne University with a Master of Surgery the following year.
In 1938, he travelled to London as the ship’s medical officer aboard the SS Ormonde. He studied medicine at St Bartholomew’s Medical School and went on to become a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. Professor Grey-Turner and Sir Thomas Dunhill, his teachers in Britain, had a profound influence on him, and he vowed to follow in their footsteps.
Weary Dunlop was a surgeon at St Mary’s Hospital in Paddington when World War II broke out. In 1939, he promptly volunteered as a Captain in the Australian Army Medical Corps (6th Division).
He was named Acting Assistant Director of Medical Services after serving as a Medical Officer at the Australian Overseas Base’s
headquarters in Jerusalem. He was promoted to Major in 1940.
He later worked as an AIF Medical Liaison Officer on the staff of Lusterforce’s Deputy Director of Medical Services in Greece and Crete. In
1942, the Australian Divisions were recalled from the Middle East for home defense, and Dunlop was assigned to Java, where he was elevated to temporary Lieutenant Colonel.
Dunlop was in charge of the No. 1 Allied General Hospital in Bandung when the Japanese captured the region, including the hospital, and he and many other doctors were taken prisoner of war.
His captors put him in command of prisoner-of-war camps in Java because of his outstanding leadership abilities. The Australian prisoners, including Dunlop, were moved to Singapore after being imprisoned in a number of camps in Java.
In 1943, he was dispatched to Thailand as the commander of the “Dunlop Force” to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. The prisoners of war were compelled to work as forced laborers on the railways under the most dreadful conditions. Food was sparse, and the inmates were beaten on a regular basis.
Disease was rampant, and there were no medical supplies, adding to the detainees’ anguish. Weary Dunlop, on the other hand, did everything he could to help the wounded and dying captives, as well as to improve their spirits. He even resisted his captors to help his fellow inmates, putting his own life in danger in the process.
Dunlop was promoted to Lt Colonel after the war ended in 1945. He was discharged from the army in 1946 and went on to create a successful private medical practice.
In 1956, he joined the Peter MacCallum Clinic as a Consultant Surgeon, and in 1964, he was promoted to Senior Consultant at the Royal Melbourne Hospital. From 1973 until 1981, he worked as a medical officer for the British Phosphate Commission.
He supported several social, educational, and sporting organizations in addition to his medical profession. He was active in ex-prisoner of war and veterans organizations, and for a while he was the federal president of the Ex-POW Association of Australia.
Major Projects of Edward Dunlop
He showed amazing courage as a prisoner of war, even in the most harrowing circumstances, and he cared to the sick and dying with zeal, even when medical supplies were scarce. He raised the spirits of his fellow inmates and is recognized with being one of the reasons Australia had the greatest survival rate.
Achievements & Awards
In 1965, Weary Dunlop was appointed a Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George.
He was designated one of the ‘200 Great Australians’ in 1988.
In 1993, he was awarded the Most Noble Order of the Royal Crown of Thailand’s Knight Grand Cross (1st Class).
He was also a Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh Honorary Fellow and an Honorary Fellow of Imperial College London.
Personal History and Legacy
In June of 1940, he married Helen Ferguson. However, due to World War II, the pair could only marry a few years later, in 1945. John and Alexander were their two sons.
At the age of 85, he died on July 2, 1993.
Estimated Net Worth
When Edward Dunlop died, he had a net worth of $1.6 million USD. Edward Dunlop is one of Australia’s wealthiest military officers, with a total net worth of $1 billion.