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A MANUSCRIPT written and produced by former prisoner of war Sir Alexander “Alick” Russell Downer KBE during his captivity in Singapore’s Changi prison camp was unveiled this morning at the Australian War Memorial, marking the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore during World War II.The unpublished monograph titled “Government in two worlds: an introductory survey of the governments of Britain and Australia” was researched, written, typed, and bound during Downer’s time in Changi between February 1942 and September 1945. It was based on the lectures given by Downer at the AIF Education Centre, nicknamed “Changi University”, on the governments of Australia, its allies, and its enemies.
After the war, Downer, father of the present High Commissioner of Australia to the UK, was elected to Australia’s House of Representatives, and later served as Minister for Immigration before himself being appointed Australian High Commissioner in London from 1963 to 1972.
Memorial director Brendan Nelson said: “Not only does Sir Alick’s writing illustrate the extraordinary resolve and pro-activity these men displayed in extremely trying circumstances but it also points to the person he would become in the post-war period.”
Following the Allied surrender to the Japanese, 50,000 British and Australian prisoners of war were marched into the British barracks at Changi. Their captors rarely intervened in the camp’s operation, and this relative autonomy meant that the men could develop things such as the Education Centre program, which Mr Downer was instrumental in establishing.
With the addition of the Downer manuscript the memorial now holds three books from Changi’s prisoner-of-war library, bound and repaired at the camp’s book bindery, and two from the Civilian
To view the digitised manuscript visit awm.gov.au/collection/AWM2016.38.241.