He was very tall and so he stooped a lot to perform the operations for which he became famous. This made him look as
though he was tired. It led to his nick-name "Weary".
Sir Edward "Weary" Dunlop was a surgeon in the Australian Army during World War Two. He served in the Middle East and he is
legendary for his care of soldiers taken prisoner by the Japanese.
His nickname might have been 'Weary' but his nature certainly wasn't. Even in the most horrific conditions Weary found energy to
fight for the well being and often, the lives of these men.
Weary grew up on farms in country Victoria. He loved adventures and he liked to prove he was tougher than the rest. " I used to
walk down barefoot and jump on top of my favourite riding horse and round up the horses - it was quite an impressive cavalcade."
Weary was a natural athlete and at school in Benalla, he preferred to play sport than to study.
When he left school Weary took a job in a pharmacy. But he grew bored with small town life and headed for Melbourne in 1927.
Here Weary took a new career path, and began studying medicine at Melbourne University. He also played with Australia's national rugby
team, The Wallabies, and was a champion boxer.
Soon after graduating Weary took a job as a ship's surgeon and sailed to London. The next year World War Two broke out. Weary knew
his skills were needed closer to the action.
"I just couldn't get into the army quick enough"
About a year after enlisting in the Australian Army, Weary was sent to the Middle East and from there to Java in Indonesia. The Japanese had attacked the island, and Weary was needed to help treat the casualties. But just two weeks after his arrival Japanese troops captured the town where Weary was living. The prisoners were taken by ship from Singapore to Burma, and then crammed into train carriages for a five day horror ride into Thailand.
The Japanese wanted to build a four hundred and twenty one kilometre long railway from west Thailand into Burma. The work required physical strength and good tools. The prisoners had neither. "I'd see these fellas off at the crack of dawn, just carrying their rice for the day, and then they would drag in any time up until midnight, some of them on their hands and knees."
As a commander, Weary had the awful job of deciding who was fit enough to work. As a surgeon, he was also the one who patched the men up after their hours of hard labour. Standing nearly two metres tall, Weary had to stoop as he operated on patients beneath kerosene lamps.
Former prisoner of War, Bill Griffiths is among the many who owe their lives to Weary. The Japanese planned to kill him. What use is a disabled man, it was argued. Weary stepped in front of the bayonets and refused to move until Bill's life was spared.
A habit of keeping track of the war via a hidden wireless also landed Weary in the firing line. "I got handcuffed around a tree, my tummy exposed to four bayonets and a countdown. Things were pretty grim." Weary ended up being tortured instead but the experience only made him more defiant.
When the war was over, Weary continued to work as a surgeon in Australia and in Asia. In 1969 he was knighted in recognition of his contribution to medicine. Weary's compassionate nature enabled him to forgive and even meet, some of his former enemies.
Finally, in 1993, ten days short of his 86th birthday, Sir Edward Weary Dunlop died. Over ten thousand people lined the streets of Melbourne for the state funeral of the man they called 'The Surgeon of the Railway'. "I have a conviction that it's only when you are put at full stretch that you can realise your full potential."
The statue of 'Weary' Dunlop which stands in Melbourne's Domain.
Behobeho East Africa 1915 - 1917 Nyangao Kilimanjaro Great War 1917 Belgium 1914 -18