During World War Two, one of the greatest defeats, was when Singapore surrendered on 15th February 1942. This was one a long series of Japanese victories as western powers were defeated throughout Asia. These early victories put a large contingent of British, Australian, and other allied into being Prisoners of War. Singapore was held by Japan until the end of the war in August 1945.

Around 80,000 allied troops were captured in the Fall of Singapore (approximately 15,000-20,000 were Australians). Very little information about the POW’s filtered back to Australia. It was not until the ex-POW’s returned to Australia that news of the conditions became public.

Map of Singapore
Map of Singapore

The Camp is Established

In the beginning, the Japanese had little idea of what to do with so many prisoners. Many were soon held at the British built Selarang Barracks near Changi Prison in the eastern part of Singapore island. The barracks, built in 1938, was meant to hold 800 men. By 1942, it held over 15,000 men ( For Australians, ‘Changi’ become a term that encompass, the prison and the Barracks complex.

In August 1942 a new Japanese Commander arrived, General Shimpei Fukuye. The new commander required the British and Australian POW’s to sign a “No Escape Pledge”. After a standoff, the prisoners signed the pledge.

George Aspinall, an Australian Prisoner of War, had a secret camera, and took a number of photos in Change during this period. Both the photos below date from early September 1942 and show the camp during the standoff.

SELARANG BARRACKS, CHANGI, SINGAPORE, 1942-09-02 by George Aspinall - Source:Australian War Memorial
SELARANG BARRACKS, CHANGI, SINGAPORE, 1942-09-02 by George Aspinall - Source:Australian War Memorial

SELARANG BARRACKS, CHANGI, SINGAPORE, 1942-09-04 by George Aspinall - Source:Australian War Memorial
SELARANG BARRACKS, CHANGI, SINGAPORE, 1942-09-04 by George Aspinall - Source:Australian War Memorial

Another photo shows the crowding inside the barracks

Australian Prisoners, CHANGI, SINGAPORE, c1942-1943 by George Aspinall - Source:Australian War Memorial
Australian Prisoners, CHANGI, SINGAPORE, c1942-1943 by George Aspinall - Source:Australian War Memorial


With so many men interned, there became a range of entertainment options. From talks, to frog racing to music, to sport. Basketball and Soccer were popular, but so were baseball, hockey, rugby and Australian Rules football. Kevin Blackburn’s excellent “The Sportsmen of Changi” is a recommended read for those with further interest. Blackburn, an Australian academic who works in Singapore provides a fascinating insight without the jingoistic popularism of other titles.

Australian Rules Football

It is difficult to be precise with names, dates and events because some sources conflict.

Roland Perry’s ‘The Changi Brownlow” notes that Wilfred ‘Chicken Smallhorn’, Ben Barnett, Les Green, Roy Fox were the instigators of the competition and it was they who determined that it would be serious rather than ‘playful and half-serious’. (p193).

Wilfred Smallhorn played 150 games for Fitzroy between 1930 and 1940, was an interstate representative and the 1933 Brownlow medallist.

1933 Wills Cigarette Card Large - Source:ebay
1933 Wills Cigarette Card Large - Source:ebay
1933 Wills Cigarette Card Large Reverse - Source:ebay
1933 Wills Cigarette Card Large Reverse - Source:ebay

Ben Barnett played 173 first class cricket matches in a long career from 1929/1930 through to 1961, He played four test matches for Australia as a wicket keeper in Australia’s tour of England in 1938. He had also played football for Old Scotch in the VAFA.

PLAYER'S 1938 CRICKETERS B. A. Barnett - Source:ebay
PLAYER'S 1938 CRICKETERS B. A. Barnett - Source:ebay
PLAYER'S 1938 CRICKETERS B. A. Barnett Reverse - Source:ebay
PLAYER'S 1938 CRICKETERS B. A. Barnett Reverse - Source:ebay

Les Green played for football for Mentone and after the war became a Melbourne F.C. Trainer, and later served as a property steward.1 Roy Fox, is a mystery but he and Smallhorn became umpires in the competition.

Les Green, interviewed for Football Life in 1969, told the story of the beginnings:

For the first six months we were more or less confined to barracks in Changi. Then the Japanese allowed us to play sport. By that time the football season in Melbourne was underway so we decided to run our own. Names chosen for the teams were Melbourne, Collingwood, Geelong, St. Kilda, Essendon and Richmond ... There were three matches every week - sometimes two on Saturday and one on Wednesday ... Believe me, they weren't picnic matches.

Equipment and Grounds

In 1945, Lieut.-Col Kappe told the Sporting Globe how, immediately after the fall of Singapore, Australians got their sporting equipment out of the bulk stores and carried it with them into captivity. This provided some basic equipment.2

More footballs were obtained by bartering with the Chinese, and the P.O.W.’s also made some themselves using old boot leather and bladders from wild pigs” 3

A Soccer ground already existed, but it was not big enough for Australian Rules football, so the Australians cleared a space and gathered tall stalks of bamboo that they bundled together to create the goal posts. Pamela Cohen in Sportsmen of Changi (p147), notes that the posts were created out of Rubber trees.

There were three matches every week, played on Saturdays and Wednesdays, with two being played on one of the days. 4

Season 1

The released POW’s from Changi, and those who had later become forced labourers on the notorious Burma Railway, returned to Australia in September-October 1945. Many wanted to forget the ordeal, but the story of the Changi Football competition was soon in the paper. Jim Makeham’s report, as appeared in Melbourne’s Sporting Globe newspaper 5 appears in full below:

Changi Camp Had Its Football League by Pte. Jim Makeham

The first—and last—annual report of the Changi Football League is probably the most historical sporting document to come out of the war.

Typed on the back of a page-proof from an American newspaper, by Pte. Jim Makeham, of Korumburra, a P.O.W. in Changi Camp, the report was hidden from the Japs for three year. Pte. Makeham is now on his way home, and the report has just been received by his brother, Mr Bob Makeham, former Collingwood footballer.
The report is given below.

As if by magic some one produced a football. At first the lads were able only to indulge in kick-for-kick between buildings on the hard bitumen surfaces.

Then someone suggested getting a competition going, it was thought that the diet on which we were living was far from sufficient to engage in such a strenuous exercise as only 2 oz. of meat 56 grams ed. was the weekly allowance.

However, it was decided to form a competition of four teams, playing field was made on the padang outside the hospital wire between Changi and Selerang, where the main AIF camp was situated. The ground was hardly wide enough, but was about the right length. Bamboo poles, about 30 ft. long, were used for goal posts.

The Australian Rules Changi Football League was formed and the following committee elected:— President, Captain "Jock" Frew (former superintendent of Melbourne Hospital); secretary, Sgt. M. Brown; members, Capt. Alan Bush (A.B.C.), W./O. Doug Horgan, Sgt. R. Fox, Pte. R. R. Sparkes; Pte. McKay.

Lieut.-Col. H. P. Simmons, C.O. of the A.G.H., patron.


The four teams were named after the Victorian League final four of 1941.

Thus Melbourne, Richmond, Essendon and Carlton were to struggle for the Changi premiership of 1942. A long way from the M.C.G., but at heart these lads kept the spirit of the old game going.

Sgt. H. Frankland (former Essendon League star, we'd say about 1900) was coach for Melbourne. Sgt. Norm Logan (former Brunswick player) was in charge of Carlton. Pte. Jim Makeham took over Essendon, and W.O. Doug Horan had Richmond.

Each of the teams had their own office-bearers and committee— which met frequently. Capt. Bush presided over Richmond, with Pte Bert Wootan secretary; Major Nairn, of Perth, was president of Carlton, Cpl. Hedley Hatch secretary; Major John Cade was president of Melbourne, Pte. Harwood Furze secretary; Major Ian Cameron of Croydon, was Essendon's president, with Pte. D. McLerie secretary.

Each team played the others twice. Lowest team at the end of the home-and-home rounds did not play in the finals. The second and third played a preliminary final to determine who would play off the grand final against the top team. The playing tune was fixed in accordance with tropical and dietary conditions—two halves of 20 minutes.

First game was played on August 16, when Carlton 7.5 defeated Essendon 4.3; on August 19, Richmond 2.2 lost to Melbourne 6.6.


A new Interest was provided for everyone. Even those unable to leave their beds had something new to talk about. The "books" added to the interest, although the only form of currency at that time were "boong" (native) cigarettes.

By the time the finals were reached the positions were: Carlton, five wins; Essendon, three; Melbourne and Richmond, two each. On percentages, the Tigers tossed the Red Legs.

The Dons, having won three on end, were naturally favorites against the Tigers. Opinions were obtained from former champions, and posted on the notice board. Lou Daley (a patient with eye trouble) tipped Essendon to win comfortably.

On being told that Richmond was a 7/4. pop, he tried to get set on them, but was beaten to the bookies — some say by a major.

The final was disappointing. Richmond won easily.

The Dons were upset through the Inability to play one of their leading players, who had been given 28 days' "boob" (yes; gaol within a gaol).

In the grand final, Richmond were again the outsiders, but they confounded the books by defeating Carlton, 10.8 to 6.8.

(The photo of Richmond appeared in last Saturday's Globe).

Sporting Globe 6 Oct 1945 P5 Richmond Changi Competition
Sporting Globe 6 Oct 1945 P5 Richmond Changi Competition

The vote for the season's "best and fairest" went to J. Stewart, Melbourne's captain. Joyce, of Carlton, headed the goal-kickers

Having A Cook Proved Handy

Richmond celebrated the victory with a dinner, of dry rice, possibly through having one of the cooks on their side.

Outstanding players Included the following:—
RICHMOND.—Cpl I.p. Mackinlay, capt. (Geelong Sea Scouts); Staff-Sgt. Max Street (Ormond), Ptes. J. Milledge (Coleraine), Bob Small (Echuca), Bert Wootan (Donald), J. Bastable (Canterbury, N.S.W. Rugby League), Pat Campbell (Montague Rovers), R. V. Barnes (Golden Point): Cpl. T.H. Hollioak (Ballarat).

MELBOURNE.—Pte. J. Stewart, capt., Rutherglen; Capt. J. Frew (University Blacks), Lieut. J. Fuller (Sydney University Rugby Union), Cpl. H. Shurey (Essendon Juniors), L./Cpl. Don Lugton (Alphington Amateurs). Pte. C. Ainsworth (Mitcham District), J. Zeeno (Port Melbourne 2nds). J. Lynch (Camperdown), L. Wookey (Snake Valley), J. Pengil (Subiaco, W.A.), L. H. Green (Mentone).

CARLTON. — T. Joyce, capt. (Kew Districts), Cpl. R. Prowse (Beeac), R. Sparks (Vic. schoolboys and Sub-District Association, Melbourne Juniors), W. Parker (Warburton), L. Byrne (Collingwood 2nds).

ESSENDON.—E. Sampson, capt. (Elsternwick), T. Baker (best and fairest Essendon Junior League), M. McAllistar (Mt. Hawthorn Amateurs, Perth), L. Prosser (Essendon Rovers), G. Sim (Richmond Imperials), P. Bolton (John Vale Northcote 3rds), ? R. Fitzsimmonds (Whoranly Stanhope), R. Walsh (Clifton Hill Amateurs), F. Adams (Malven Amateurs), K. Bell (Stony Creek), R. Walsh (Elsternwick Imperials).

2/9 v. Combined A.G.H (Field Ambulance v Australian General Hospital? Ed.)

The 2/9 were one of the first units in Malaya and, before the outbreak of hostilities, were unbeaten champions. They defeated all challengers, Including the RAAF, three times. They had a succession of 17 victories.

The Ninth were rather dubious of taking the field again. Harold Ball (Melbourne League fame) and L. Larsen, two of the stalwarts, had paid the supreme sacrifice. Another player, R. Robertson (Probably R.G. “Robbie” Robertson of Williamstown ed), of Association fame, and several other members of the team were tripping somewhere or other with our "hosts."

However, they accepted the challenge of the A.G.H. The Ninth paid a nice tribute to the memory of their former captain, Harold Ball Ball, an ex-Melbourne player, then an ambulance driver, was captured, tortured and killed around the 9th of Feb during the fall of Singapore ed, by having him as "honorary captain" for this game. Both teams lined up while a bugler played The Last Post as a tribute to the memory of all footballers who had been killed in action. The match was interesting, with the Ninth running out easy winners.

A return match was won by A.G.H. after an interesting tussle. Then the "Championship* ended in a tie—a fitting finish.

END of article

Further details about the players

The ‘Best and Fairest’ for the season ‘J.Stewart Rutherglen’ is probably ‘John William Stewart’ who is listed on the WW2 Nominal role as being a P.O.W. and was born in Rutherglen. A ‘J Stewart’ was Full Back with the Rutherglen Team (played in the Ovens and Murray Football League (The League included Benalla, Wangaratta, East and West Albury). J.Stewart won the club’s “Most Outstanding Player for the season” in 1938. 6

Weekly Times 11 Aug 1934 JStewart Rutherglen V Wangaratta
Weekly Times 11 Aug 1934 JStewart Rutherglen V Wangaratta

Leading Goalkicker, T.Joyce was Trevor Lindsay Joyce, who played with East Kew.

Joe Pengel, playing in the Melbourne team, was captain of Subiaco (WAFL) in 1926.7 Born in 1904, he would have been around 40 when the games were played.

Wally Kenny who played in the final match (see below), was another WAFL player. He had played as Full back for East Fremantle, in the Goldfields league and later at South Fremantle.8

Eric Sampson, captain of the ‘Essendon’ team played for Elsternwick. Eric’s son Brian Sampson played 100 games for Essendon (1959–1966). He also played for West Perth and represented the WAFL in interstate football. Another second son, Ray Sampson played one game for Melbourne, and was a regular for Sandringham from (1970-1974).

When Bob Small’s memorabilia came up for auction, it included a Changi Premier’s trophy plaque. Unfortunately, although the 30cm x 19cm plaque came through the war and got to his family, but Bob died on 15-Dec-1943 while working as a forced labourer on the Burma railroad.

AFL 'premiers' Plaque From Changi Source:Christies Auctions
AFL 'premiers' Plaque From Changi Source:Christies Auctions

RICHMOND FOOTBALL CLUB, PREMIERS, 1942, Australian Rules Association, P. O. W. CAMP CHANGI, Coach: Horgan D., Trainer: G. Brown, Pres: A. Bush, Capt: P. MacKinlay, Vice Capt: R. Small, Secretary: B. C. Wootten, Treasurer: H. Hollioak, Presented to P. J. Campbell as a member of the above Club., President Changi League.
Grand Final : played at 7pm on 17 October 1942

The season lasted just over three months.

A Second Season

Jim Makeham’s article mention’s four teams with Carlton winning a grand Final, J. Stewart of Rutherglen, captain of the ‘Melbourne’ team was voted best and fairest.

There is some confusion to me regarding the number of teams, whether there was one, or two seasons, and for which competition the ‘Brownlow’ was awarded for. This confusion also occurred in the recollections of the POW’s themselves. In an interview with Ben Barnett and Alan Bush recorded in the Sporting Globe 9:

Said Bush: "My team. Richmond, won the premiership."
Barnett: "Like hell you did; Geelong won it."
Bush: "I should know; I was president of Richmond."
Barnett: "I was full forward for Geelong. We gave you the stick."
A third party was introduced into the argument and it was finally sorted out that Richmond won the first premiership but that in a second completion, that was never finished, Geelong were unbeatable.
"Yes. I know." was Barnett's parting shot; "Richmond were not game to play us that time. We would have wiped you up."

As Barnett mentions above, Geelong seem to have been an unstoppable team in that second season.

Pamela Cohen, writing in Sportsmen of Changi p146-147 notes that there were six teams in the competition. This possibly relates to the second season.
The matches were played between teams with the names of Melbourne clubs – Melbourne, Carlton, Collingwood, Essendon, Geelong, Richmond and St Kilda. The teams were from the AIF’s Selarang Barracks, except Melbourne and Richmond, which were made up of Australians from the Hospital Area.

Player Trading

A key section of Roland Perry’s “The Changi Brownlow” describes the start of the season, but could well be referring to the start of the second season.

Chitty was preparing to play for the hospital teams Melbourne or Richmond when a delegation from the 'Geelong' club led by big Lou Daley from Selarang prison came looking for him. Daley had been a star for the real Geelong club before the war. The delegation found Chitty on his back under a Japanese truck doing repairs. They wanted to have a serious chat and suggested they meet at a room in the barracks. Chitty turned up, intrigued with what all the secrecy was about. He sat at a table opposite six POWs.

'We really want to win this competition,' Daley said. 'We want the best players we can get. We'd like to invite you to join the team.'

Chitty was surprised. He told them he was honoured by the offer. But he owed it to the hospital to play for one of its teams. Both Richmond and Melbourne wanted him. He was leaning towards Richmond. One of the players left the room and returned with a big bowl. He placed it on the table.

'That's yours,' Daley said, motioning to the bowl. 'Three portions of rice with vegetables if you join us. We can't give you more, because that is the agreed transfer fee.'

Chitty still declined the offer. One of the others asked if there was anything that they could give him that would change his mind. At first, Chitty demurred. The challenge to skipper a team was even more important than the food. He had been always a leader whether as an NCO, in the 1939 fires or in sport. Uppermost in his mind was his experience as captain and coach of Cudgewa, which gave him a taste of being an on-field skipper. He was to be the sole selector also. He threw in a third stipulation: Ben Barnett, a top-line amateur player for Old Scotch, and Heyne, a former team-mate at St Kilda, should also be enticed to join Geelong.

When the others pushed him to respond he told them of the three conditions that would make him consider the move. Daley was unsettled. He wanted to lead. But the others said they would confer and get back to him.

The next day, Daley came to the hospital carrying a box. He placed it in Chitty's room. In it was the rice-dish transfer fee.

'You're captain,' Daley said shaking his hand, 'and sole selector at Geelong. Barnett and Heyne are going to join us too.'

It seems strange, that Geelong were not mentioned in the season one report, especially if they included such names as Barnett (the Test Cricketer), Lou Daley, also known as Lou Daily, (Sandover Medallist with Subiaco in the WAFL, who also played for Geelong and Collingwood) and Peter Chitty (ex St Kilda). Daily is mentioned in Makeham’s report (in full above), but only as ‘a patient with eye trouble’, and not as a player.

New Call And Bailey's Weekly Perth 31 Mar 1938 P3 Lou Dailey
New Call And Bailey's Weekly Perth 31 Mar 1938 P3 Lou Dailey

Apart from Smallhorn, Lou Daley was by far the best credentialed player at Changi. A star for Subiaco in the early 1930’s, he was recruited to Collingwood in 1933 when many clubs, (Such as South Melbourne) were keenly importing Western Australian talent. He played for Geelong in 1934, before returning west in 1935. He promptly won the Sandover medal for best and fairest in the WAFL, and won his club best and fairest in 1936 and 1937. In 1938, after 92 WANFL games, (Plus 7 at Collingwood and 19 at Geelong) , Daily crossed to Mines Rovers in the GNFL as captain-coach. again winning the league best and fairest trophy in 1939. He captained goldfields representative side to a win over Port Adelaide that same year.10

Peter Chitty Source:AWM
Peter Chitty Source:AWM

Considering Chitty had played 2 games for St Kilda in 1936 before returning to Cudgewa, who played in the Upper Murray Football League (Corryong, Cudgewa, Federal and Walwa.)

The decision by Barnett and Daley to let Chitty be captain and sole selector appears astounding, but proved effective.

Les Green at Selarang Barracks, was also recruited, probably in season 1; ‘Max Street, a friend of mine, persuaded me to go over to the Hospital Area to play football for “Melbourne”. I was given three bowls of rice for transferring.’
Sportsmen of Changi p148

The End of Football

The war diary of AIF Headquarters in Changi notes: ‘In Jan 1943 the casualties resulting from football and boxing were a drain on the decreasing drugs, and acting on medical advice these two sports were banned.’ The only football code allowed to be played after the ban was soccer.
Sportsmen of Changi p145

At the time, Geelong appear to have been on top of the ladder. Rather than play a premiership decider. It was decided that the last game be Victoria versus the rest.

Changi’s Australian Rules players had two major games during that second season. The first was between Selarang Barracks and the Hospital Area, and was played on Christmas Day 1942. Roland Perry, Changi Brownlow gives the date as Fri 22 Jan 1942 and the other match 2 days later on the 24th. This match is described above in Jim Makeham’s article above as the ‘2/9 v. Combined A.G.H’/ The second was the Victoria v the rest game, the final Australian Rules football match at Changi.

For the final match, Victorian played in the traditional dark blue guernsey with the white “V” and white shorts. The Rest, wore white singlets with red “V” and black shorts. Victoria won the day. Smallhorn umpired. Smallhorn was in pain through the match, and a day later had an operation to remove his appendix.

There were several hundred spectators at the Victoria versus The Rest match, according to one of Les Green’s friends, a fellow POW and journalist who wrote an account of the game for Green (Sportsmen of Changi p151).
Wikipedia puts the number of spectators at around 10,000 11

Players in the Final (Match Sportsmen of Changi p153):

  • Bell (Stony Creek),
  • Green (Mentone),
  • Goulden (South Melbourne Districts),
  • Perkins (Mortlake),
  • Hancock (Mildura),
  • Crisp (Sea Lake and Wedderburn),
  • Mahoney (Collingwood Reserves),
  • Baker (Essendon Juniors),
  • Small (Echuca),
  • Sparkes (Melbourne Juniors),
  • McGrath (Riverina),
  • Mullinger (South Melbourne),
  • Halloran (St Kilda and Brighton),
  • Joyce (Kew),
  • Robinson (Geelong Reserves),
  • Byrne (Abbotsford),
  • Haig (Coburg),
  • Chitty (St Kilda)

The Rest
  • Brookes (City, Tasmania),
  • Kenny (East Fremantle),
  • McAllister (Mt Hawthorn Association, Western Australia),
  • Broadbent (Glenelg),
  • Daley (Collingwood, Geelong, Subiaco),
  • Goulter (Clair Association, South Australia),
  • Clarke (Country League, Western Australia),
  • Manton (Tatura Association, South Australia),
  • Spackman (Goldfields, Western Australia),
  • Pearce (Swan Districts),
  • Curnow (Port Lincoln, South Australia),
  • White (Hill Association, South Australia),
  • Smith (East Fremantle),
  • Williams (Wembley Association, Western Australia)
  • Hutton (South Country League, Tasmania)

The Changi Brownlow

On the day of the final game, Peter Chitty was awarded the ‘Changi Brownlow’. The “Best and Fairest” medal.

The medal was a modified soccer medal and was beautifully engraved. 12 After the war, a jeweller removed from the medal. The Chitty family eventually donated the medal to the Australian War Memorial.

REL32808 Source:Australian War Memorial
REL32808 Source:Australian War Memorial
REL32808 Source:Australian War Memorial
REL32808 Source:Australian War Memorial

The Thai-Burma Railway

The football matches were played at Changi in late 1942 and early 1943. It would be another two and a half years of captivity after that.

Train Engine used on the Thai Burma Railway – Yasakuni Shrine Tokyo 2006 - MRiley
Train Engine used on the Thai Burma Railway – Yasakuni Shrine Tokyo 2006 - MRiley

1943 saw Japan’s fortunes collapse. During this time many P.O.W’s were sent north from Changi to work on the railroad where conditions were awful, where there was starvation and death.

Peter Chitty was one of those sent to the railway. After the war he was awarded the ‘British Empire Medal’ for selfless acts such as carrying an injured mate 200km along the Railway.

Returning to Australia

The war sadly ended the lives of many soldiers and took away the best years of many others either physically, or mentally scaring them for life.

Wilfred Smallhorn’s career was over due to injury before the start of the war. He later became a football commentator

Lou Daily moved from Perth, where he was a famous player, to the small Victorian town of Listerfield as a farmer. 13

Peter Chitty’s also returned to the country.

Bob Mullenger, from Beechworth, who had played four games for South Melbourne between 1939 and 1940 came back in 1946 and played two more senior games for South Melbourne. Out of his six senior games, four were against Carlton). Bob’s brother Allan, played 58 games for South Melbourne (1939-1944).14

The 1945 VFL Grand final was played while most of the ex-prisoners were returning home. Peter chitty eagerly followed news of his brother Peter who captained Carlton in the game. Bob Mullenger would have eagerly followed South Melbourne who he hoped to rejoin.

Bob Broadbent, who played in the final match, played for Glenelg (SANFL) before the war. 15 Broadbent is listed as Vice Captain of Glenelg at the start of the 1946 season, but his name disappears from the list after that.16

Joe Pearce returned to the WAFL in 1948 after years of recovery and twice played for WA. He won the 1949 and 1950 Best and Fairest for Swan Districts.

Daily News Perth 27 Jun 1950 P18 Joe Pearce
Daily News Perth 27 Jun 1950 P18 Joe Pearce

Cyril Brooks was so keen to play football that only days after returning to Tasmania, he played in the final NTFA final for North Launceston. Only days after getting off the boat. He continued to play and to coach in Tasmania.

The 17-Sept-1945 issue of the Hobart Mercury carried the banner “Hero’s Welcome for Singapore Men in Sydney – 11 Tasmanians all fit”

One story included interviews included the note:

ONE of the fittest looking men in the Tasmanian group was Cyril Brooks. HIS home town is Ulverstone, but he lived in Launceston for many years. He played football for North. Launceston and for North in intrastate matches.

"You can take this message for Gavin Luttrell, players, and trainers of the North Launceston Football Club," he said:

"'Best of luck to you in the NTFA competition, I hope to play for North Launceston in the final.'"
This was no joke, Brooks looked capable of playing a hard game, although he worked on the Siam railway, and with others in the construction of defences and aerodromes at Singapore.” 17

On Friday the 21st of September, Brooks and others finally arrived back in Tasmania by air. On the Saturday, Brooks , as he hoped, lined up for North Launceston in the NTFA Final. 18

Examiner Launceston 16 Oct 1947 P6 Cyril Brooks
Examiner Launceston 16 Oct 1947 P6 Cyril Brooks
Examiner Launceston 24 Sep 1945 P3 Cyril Brooks
Examiner Launceston 24 Sep 1945 P3 Cyril Brooks

Ben Barnett never played another Test match though he continued his fine career in Australia, and later England, playing first class cricket until 1961.

Sporting Globe 3 Oct 1945 P15 Ben Barnett
Sporting Globe 3 Oct 1945 P15 Ben Barnett

Lieutenant George Harris, age 20 in 1942 was another internee at Changi. Harris was later Carlton President: 1965 - 1974 and 1978 – 1979.

The men who went through it and their families carried the scars for the rest of their lives. But, the story of Aussie rules at Changi shows the best of people: the effort to build a football field; to scrounge and innovate to get equipment; to make uniforms; to set up the league infrastructure including player trading and tribunals; To play football while having minimal food.

One hopes that no one ever has to go through such an ordeal again.


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End Notes

2. Returning P.O.W.s Want to Forget THEIR ORDEAL (1945, September 29). Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 - 1954), , p. 5. Retrieved July 2, 2016, from
3. Sporting Traditions Volume 23 No 1 November 2006 p70
4. SPORT AND AUSTRALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR Pamela Cohen SportingTraditions,vol. 23, no. 1 (November 2006), pp. 63-86. Published by the Australian Society for Sports History.
5. Changi Camp Had Its Football League (1945, October 13). Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 - 1954), , p. 4. Retrieved July 2, 2016, from
6. RUTHERGLEN (1938, September 23). Albury Banner and Wodonga Express (NSW : 1896 - 1938), p. 42. Retrieved July 16, 2016, from
7. SM's Brother A War Prisoner (1943, May 31). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), , p. 7 (HOME EDITION). Retrieved July 16, 2016, from 8. Footballer">]
8. Footballer Safe (1945, September 20). The Daily News (Perth, WA : 1882 - 1950), , p. 9 (HOME EDITION). Retrieved July 16, 2016, from
9. Men He Met, What He Heard (1945, October 6). Sporting Globe (Melbourne, Vic. : 1922 - 1954), , p. 5. Retrieved July 2, 2016, from" rel="external nofollow">
12. Behind Barbed Wire:SPORT AND AUSTRALIAN PRISONERS OF WAR Pamela Cohen SportingTraditions,vol. 23, no. 1 (November 2006), pp. 63-86. Published by the Australian Society for Sports History.
13. DAVE WOODS AND LOU DAILY WERE REAL STYLISTS (1953, August 15). Mirror (Perth, WA : 1921 - 1956), , p. 15. Retrieved July 3, 2016, from
14. South Rebuilding Well (1946, March 25). The Argus (Melbourne, Vic. : 1848 - 1957), , p. 12. Retrieved July 16, 2016, from
15. PASSING BY (1945, September 18). News (Adelaide, SA : 1923 - 1954), , p. 2. Retrieved July 17, 2016, from
16. TOMORROW'S TEAMS (1946, May 3). The Advertiser (Adelaide, SA : 1931 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved July 16, 2016, from
17. FOOTBALLERS HOPES (1945, September 17). The Mercury (Hobart, Tas. : 1860 - 1954), , p. 1. Retrieved July 16, 2016, from
18. FOOTBALL LAUNCESTON PREMIERS AFTER GREAT FINAL (1945, September 24). Examiner (Launceston, Tas. : 1900 - 1954), , p. 3. Retrieved July 16, 2016, from