Please feel free to leave a comment below on the artwork showcased on this site.
The whole family enjoyed seeing the experiences of Uncle Des come to life. I remember him visiting our family ‘The Cannons’ in Burnley and he would always leave us lovely drawings as a memento of his vist. These images are more powerful and really detailed the guns, ships and planes are engineering drawing quality. The architectural detail is excellent too as is the action. Brilliant, well done.
Thanks for the feedback Heather, hopefully you can spread this to your friends, work mates, family and other contacts.
It is quite amazing that this art work was done prior to dad going to art school to ‘learn’ how to draw, he was an industrial chemist at this time.
I think his father or grandfather were artistic so it is ‘in the blood’ and has been passed down to Graham and Ruth and some other nieces and nephews.
Dad told me he did the paintings ‘to keep my sanity’ and I guess that is why most are a light hearted look at Changi life as a POW.
I keep discovering more little hidden things in some of his drawings, keep looking.
I am very touched on this Hong Kong Rememberace weekend In Ottawa. The Japanese gave an official apology to all the Canadian POW’s this week. Many relatives and a few survivors of the War Camps all say it is a little late. I am so pleased at what your family has put together on my cosin by marriage. I really did not realize all that these men went through. I have a print of Des’s given to us by cousin Hugh at one of the reunions. Hope to see all my Australian Cousins at the next reunion Sally
Thanks Sally, yes, these guys, and most I guess in WW2 were in their late teens early twenties when they were thrown into this bloodshed. Dad often told us ‘I painted to keep my sanity’. I guess that is why a lot of the figures are well built, plump, pink, clothing is pretty good as well as the food. This would have been a complete contrast to the reality around him, but who wants to live in it and then drill it in even more by painting those sad images. Dad used his humour and art well before ‘art therapy’ was even thought of. Also, some of the guys would go into ward Z or X of the hospital tents, which was the last stop before death, to provide humour and it is recorded that they were told off by the medical officer for the noise (laughter) these men had created through the sick and dying. This was well before the advent of ‘laughter doctors’ who go to our hospitals now and do valuable work among the young and dying.
It’s amazing the amount of theatre programs they wrote and acted out. Some of the POW’s were professional actors, musicians, directors, women impersonators. You can view some of these figures in ‘caricatures & portraits’.
Cheers for now and please spread the word of the site among your email and facebook contacts.
I read Keiths article in the Naional ex prisoner of war association, newsletter. I looked at the images with interest, for I am researching into the life of my uncle Jack Salt 30HAA who was forced to work on the Burma Railway. The images and written information are extremely moving. Therefore, thank you again for sharing the information with us.
Hi Kathryn, our family is keen for this website to be better known, so if you can email friends with it, put it on facebook, etc that would be great. Dad drew a telling pen drawing entitled ‘Fancy Dress Ball’ under ‘Contemplating the Future’. In it, one guy is dressed as a Prisoner of War from Changi, the other guests are asking ‘where is this…Changi anyway?’ Lest we forget.
For your interest, you may want to contact your local council, MP, RSL, etc to find out how they are going to commemorate the Fall of Singapore, 70th Anniversary next month on 15 Feb 2012.
One thing I am glad of that dad did many of his paintings in humor, not so depressing.
Excellent Cartoon work! I myself am a Cartoonist since a teenager, and i greatly admire his witty humor and unique style! My own Father was a Dutch POW in Java, and my Family still has a pencil sketch done of him by a fellow prisoner in 1945 who didn’t survive like my Dad did… We will have this special memento in our Family for generations to come, it is priceless!
Thank you for this Insightful look into your dads work I am an ex navyman having served 20 years I am one of the administrators of the RAN cooks site and we have in 700 plus members with 350 of them on line so i will get this link put on our site.
The link was sent to me from one of our members from Tassy I will ensure that Pass it on to all on my list I have not had the chance to look at the whole site in its entirety . But i will do tonight .I work in the RSL villas in angle Park here in Adelaide I volunteer 2 days a week and i perform a variety of roles at the home my wife also volunteers also she teaches computer to the residents and they love it .
With your permission Can i please copy and paste some of the art work of your dad for some of the residents and to be used in our Quarterly newsletter . I have seen some of your dads work before and i have a feeling it maybe in one of my many books .
The books i am referring to are SOLDIERING ON STAND EASY and JUNGLE WARFARE there are many cartoons in these books and no doubt some of your dads maybe in these I have a full collection of the RAN and RAAF books as well i will look through them tonight .
In conclusion i would like to commend all involved in setting up this webpage it is a fitting tribute to your dad and a real labour of love an admiration Well done all
Yes you have our permsission to copy some images for your newsletter and for the residents also as long as you acknowledge the work: “Des Bettany’s artwork is reproduced with kind permission of his family. To see more images, refer to http://www.changipowart.com”
Like you we also live in Adelaide.
I am very interested in the books you mention and am aware dad gave a lot of his works away. If you find any of his work, could you please advise through the website or to me direct. I will advise you of my email address.
Keep up the great work you are doing and thank you for your kind comments.
Lest We Forget
Thanks Mick for your encouragement,
These are absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing the Website. I am President of the Ulverstone RSL Sub Branch, in N W Tasmania and have sent the site address onto one of my surviving POW’s and to several rellies of those POW’s who are no longer with us. I know one POW who would have been rapt to see them, had he been alive. He spent 14months in Changi, 14 months on the Thai/Burma railway and 14months in a coal mine in Nagasaki and still lived to 88yrs! His sense of humour was what got him through his ordeals. The surviving POW mentioned above, was 16 when he was a prisoner in Changi and is 86yrs now. I rang to tell him about the site and he gave me his email address, can you believe that! So proud of the adaptability of our old soldiers!
Thanks Libby for spreading the word. The idea is to get these images out that have been in dad’s cupboard up to now and to let other generations know of what occured. I’d be really interested in feedback from your friend who was a POW.
These very moving drawings brought back memories of my father in law who was a Changi POW until being shipped to Sandakan in Borneo. A number of the stories he told of Changi have been replicated in Des Bettany’s drawings.
What a pity these men are no longer with us to tell us more.
Thank you Don for your kind comments, I totally agree it is a pity that many of these men are gone. I have thousands of questions to ask dad about some of the art work that I don’t understand the humour in it, there may well have been hidden messages that the Japanese couldn’t pick up in it. Please share with others.
I’ve just finished looking at all your father’s drawings and reading the information on your website. An article in The Advertiser ‘Lost World of War’ with the web address, and a sneak preview of 2 drawings, peaked my interest. My father was forced into labour in Germany during the war, but I know only a little of what those ‘prisoners’ experienced. So I think it’s wonderful that you and your family are sharing this special legacy left by a talented man, your father – Thank you so much.
Yes, dad was the same, didn’t say much about his time in WW2 but I’m so glad he painted, we have a bit of an insight
Breaking and exciting news, a grand daughter of an ex POW who lived in Wales has realized that some of Des Bettany’s artwork done in Changi,was given to her grandfather, Sgt W.W. Sowter. Scanned copies of this have been forwarded and can now be seen on the site under ‘caricatures and portraits’.
Should you have any such artwork, please make contact to enable a scanned copy can be uploaded onto this site.
Thank you for allowing me to use one of your father’s drawings on the front cover of the April edition of the newsletter of the McLaren Vale RSL Sub Branch. I will email you a copy when I have finished it. Your Website is fantastic.
McLaren Vale RSL Sub Branch
My Grandfather was a POW at Changi also after the fall of Singapore till the end of the war. He worked part of the time as a medical orderly I believe with Weary Dunlop. The cartoon showing the search with the POW hiding a gun behind his back caught my eye. It reminded me of a story I learnt, that once he was hiding a pistol under his bed when a search was launched in his quarters. He was standing by his bed with a recent photo of his wife and 8 kids that had been sent to him. The commander saw it and stood by him talking about his own family. The others stayed away from them while searching. When the others had finished they then left without touching his bed. This photo was credited with saving his life!
Thanks for the website. I will pass the link to other members of the family. They will be very interested.
Thanks for that story about your grandfather Daniel.I wonder how many other similar stories have been shared. I’d love to here them.
I did hear 2 weeks ago of a POW of the Japanese who was an artist. The person in charge of the camp pointed out places of interest to paint from, such as the top of some ridges, but made it clear that he must take a particular guard with him. The guard was elderly, and each time they got out the gate, the guard would hand his rifle to the POW to carry ‘too heavy’. Upon return, the POW would hand it back before re entering he gates.
My late father was a Changi POW medic captured at the fall of Singapore, Robert George Gregson, known as George, NX25185, 10th Field Amb. This collection of art which is now preserved in electronic form for all to see and appreciate is a testament to the humour, (and pain suffered), by a generation of courageous and tough blokes who survived experiences we cannot even imagine.
Dad seldom spoke of his time as a POW and this exhibition helps to fill in some way my understanding of that time.
Thanks for sharing these most wonderful memories and stories in the great artworks.
Thank you for your comments about your late dad and the art work. These men surely went through hell as you suggest and at such a young age. Dad seldom talked about his time either in Changi, but later in his life a few stories were revealed.
Read article in S A.Life April edition. My friend Ron Cranwell lived next door to your parents in Quinlan Avenue.Enjoyed my visits to Des and Irene and chats over the fence.
Have contacted Kathryn and Ron’s brother LLoyd re the article and drawings.
I knew Ron and the family very well, neighbours. He was a real gentleman.
Keith, one of my mothers friends Johnny Gibson was in Changi and although he never talked about it much he did give me many years ago one of the Pygmalion programmes from the 21st February 1945, Coconut Grove Theatre production. After all the years of having this I finally started to see what I could find on the internet. It is remarkable that each of the programmes was unique. The one I have which has the same sketch and general layout and colouring also has a number of differences to the one shown on the website. It makes me wonder whether any others survived. The signature in the bottom corner looks like Gilbet. Do you know how they did something like this or how many would have been made for each production?
Thanks Gavin, Yes I think they had a production line type of thing going. The AWM (Australian War Memorial) should be able to give you some information as my brother was asked to provide what he knew. Also, a new book is being prepared about this, you can view, hear the text and researcher on http://digitalcommons.macalester.edu/thdabooks/1/
Keith, one further coincidence from this story is that my partner Dorothy comes from Adelaide now (Largs Bay) but in 1963 was a pupil at the Wyhalla High School. When did Des leave there?
We live in Adelaide, I was down Largs last week and will be there again this week, nice place. Des (and we) were in Whyalla from Feb 1958 to 1960. We arrive there from UK as dad was a teacher. The house wasn’t finished so we lived in a shed on the beach in Feb, temp outside 114 degrees. We were on McBride Tce, runs beside rail line to Iron Knob, and were the last house in the town (now more like the centre of town). Small world isn’t it? Are you in Adelaide?
Hi Keith, I just had a look at your dad’s artwork. He was obviously a talented and special man. I can imagine he would have been a great encouragement to those around him during those terrible times. I will pass on your site to my Facebook friends.
Dear family of Des,
Thanks for the attention upon your website with a large number of impressive drawings made by you Des.
It looks good to me this very personal nature of work and experience is to show the world in the hope that this kind of misery can not take place.
Thanks Raphael, your comments are very much appreciated from the Netherlands.
Very interesting well done Keith!
Thank you Philip, if you could let others know we would appreciate that, trying to get the word around. As you will notice, lots of drawings of 25 pounders. Dad was lance bombardier on these and loved them all of his life. So we have made a separate category ‘The Guns’ for those interested in artillery.
Thanks for your encouragement,
My late Father was a survivor of the Japanese POW camps. Goodness knows how anyone survived. What a great bunch of guys.
A few years ago I visited Thailand and the Hellfire Pass which brought some of the horrors home to me, but even so, what they went through is unimaginable.
Sadly my Father died in his early seventies and his stories went with him, apart from the few he shared.Like many other POWs he was reticent to talk about what went on.
I’ve shared this site on Facebook. Hopefully it will reach a few more people.
Thank you so much Michael,
As I look more carefully, you can see the gaol in many images. I need to remind myself, Changi was the name of the pennisula and several POW camps existed there.
Keep in touch and please spread the word of the site through your contacts. It has appeared in 2 UK newspapers last night, here are the links:
I totally agree with you, how they got through this at such a young age with no resources and hardly any food and to build so much in these conditions begs beleif!!
Thank you for sharing on Face Book, great, you may consider sharing with your email contacts too. We would like to spread the word far and wide about what they went through for us!! In 2 major UK newspapers, dad’s artwork was featured last night, the links are:
Keep in touch and like your dad, ours didn’t say much until the end. Now I have many, many questions.
Very moving website Keith and family. AS young boy my Father was based at RAF Changi in the late 60′s, we used to pass the prison every day on the way to school.
It is only in my later years that I begin to appreciate the sheer hell that the POW’s suffered there during WWII. God bless them all.
Any chance of a book or catalogue, I love the site, but am old fashioned! UK
Thanks William, I am just an amateur and it was hard enough to get the site together and am still working on the research and wording for some images. However I do take your point and see the real value in a ‘coffee table book’, especially for the elderly who may have served or have an interest but no access to the web.
It comes down to time + $$$ + content + experience.
Dad’s work was in 2 UK newspapers last night: The Sun and The Daily Mail, here are the links:
I feel it important to get the word out there about the site so if you can help by emailing your friends and other media, that would be appreciated.
I am so glad you love the site so much, painted with much anguish, sweat, blood and the unknown.
In ’64 I was in Malaya because of the so-called Confrontation with Indonesia. We had to re-construct and old airfield at Alor Star, just south of the Thai border. We had to work fairly hard in quite unpleasant conditions. This was nothing compared to the poor lads in WWII under Japanese captivity. We had four meals a day and could stop for a long refreshing drink of cold beer whenever we wished. Nobody was pushing or beating us, nobody yelling, and a doctor available to attend the merest scratch.
When I think back to those days compared with the suffering these poor lads experienced, it makes me blush. I could never experience self-pity again.
Thanks Mike and I thoroughly agree with your comments. We are trying to spread the word so if you can share the website with others on your email address book that would be appreciated. Also, 2 major UK newspapers have featured some of dad’s work, linK is:
Thank you, Keith, for putting up Des’s artwork. My father, Gunner WL (Les) Hill was a member of the RFA and I think wound up in F Troop after fighting his way down the Malay Peninsula. After Changi he got the grand tour, being sent to the Railway, then coppermining in Formosa at Kinkaseki and finally coal mining in northern Japan. Like many of the POW’s he found it extraordinarily hard to talk about his experiences, -today it would be called ‘survivor guilt’, – so seeing these pictures has helped me to come to terms with the man he became as a result of the war. After the war he was given a small, self-published book of drawings of POW life; could the author have been Des?
I read about this website in the Daily Telegraph this morning.
I am the President of an Old Bys Club (the Clove Club) and have just published a new History of our School incorporating the Roll of Honour for both World Wars. Sadly, while the dead are relatively easy to find, those who survived and returned are more often than not overlooked.
We now have the ability to record their names and this Des Bettany site, beside being a wonderful tribute to the man himself, stands as a memorial to all his colleagues who stayed in Asia. Probably some of our Old Boys were among them, though it is difficult to be sure.
Thank you for providing this wonderful site, and thank you, belatedly, to Des.
My father was also in 88 Regiment and talked of the humour so essential to sanity. I wonder now whether he was referring to these cartoons. Very thought provoking. Theirs was a different world.
brilliant drawings article in todays daily express so came on to the site. the humour hides the terrible years Les and his mates went through.Never Never forget the men who suffered but remained full of spirit and the will to record
these times. Superb, funny and emotive at the same time RIP LES
Also visited after seeing Daily Express. What a resilient man, with such an imagination. I was moved by his accounts; I knew a POW many years ago but he could never talk of the experience. I am thinking fondly of him as I write this. Thank you.
Thank you for this wonderful academy of pictures. A testament to the human spirit rising above the horrors encountered each day. On behalf of all those who have no voice, thank you Keith and thank you and RIP Des, you certainly fulfilled the aim to “keep going the spirit that kept us going”. We honour the few now still with us and we remember those who have gone, “when you go home tell them of us and say – for your tomorrow we gave our today.”
My late father, Ernest William Sansom (Bill), was a POW in Changi and he had to help build the Railway. A very brave man and I am very proud of him. I wish I had asked him to tell me more about the time he spent there, but I was worried about him being reminded of all the awful things that he was forced to endure and all the friends that he had lost. I found your father’s drawings very interesting. Thanks for sharing them with us.
Fabulous paintings and drawings by Des. It reminded me when my husband and I visited Changi Museum in February 2010. We also went to the cemetary of all the brave men who fought for Singapore. It brought tears to our eyes looking around the museum and also paying our respects to those in the cemetary. I was born in 1951 after all this happened but I feel for all the horrific suffering that they endured. We should all honour them for what they went through.
Thank you Keith so very much for the information received.
Des’s art work is a religion and education of survival and passing it on for the good of humanity.
Now is the time for history to change so that it never happens again.
Des’s art work is the perfect way to pass on so as to push for Peace.
The world I feel is at a critical stage in time where history could be repeated.
I truly hope not.
Finding out about my grand father although such a heart breaking back ground it has given me the courage and curiosity no mater how painful the pictures and stories and poems I discover are, I will continue to push for peace.
I still have allot to find out although I know the day my grand father was captured and killed I do not know what camp he was held at.
To all the men of courage that were imprisoned and suffered that died and were set free with the deepest respect I salute you and pledge in your name I will push for peace.
I hope that some day all the graves of all the brave men that are around the world can be brought home and situated in place they so rightfully deserve.
Love and peace to you and your family.
I have looked through almost all of this website and I am moved, impressed and honored to “meet” this gentleman – and I mean that in the deepest sense of the word – who created art in the midst of a hell I cannot imagine.
The Changi Limb Factory is remarkable – sanity, humor, generosity of spirit in the middle of that.
I came across your site referenced in a site called Prisoners of War of the Japanese, 1942-1945, on their guestbook.
You mention a few times that you would like to spread the word. May I suggest a presence on Twitter? I would be certain to follow your site.
I’ve just found your site tonight while looking for information on Willis Toogod who I now know was an entertainer and female impersonator in Changi during the war! You have very kindly used my description of meeting him on your site and I had always tried to find nout more about this very thin rather effeminate man who, these days I would mprobably describeas being rather camp! At 10 years old 1958, had no idea what that meant. I just knew he was very kind and gentle, called my mother ‘dahling rosy bottom’ because of a well placed flower on her print dress, had peacocks in the garden and served hot tea in china cups in the heat of his garden in Cyprus. He was a broadcaster with British Forces Network and I think became its head later. Many thanks for filling in the pieces in my little jigsaw. I grew up as an army child and in common with others, my father and his friends never spoke of the horror and suffering they experienced. I’m just sorry that I didn’t listen enough when my dad did choose to speak -it’s too late to ask questions now. Once again, thank you.
I remember Des so fondly. One particular time he was with Dorothy and Hugh Fulton at Hayhill Houuse and Des and I used to sit in the front conservatory as the two token smokers.
Those were the days and all this evokes memories of my cousin Rene as a land girl inehe environs of Lancaster.
Thanks for the memories Keith !
It is thanks to Des and his comerades that we are free today, thank you to all the men and women who have and are serving in our armed forces from the people of Burnley.
It would be nice to know a bit more about his time in the town.
a most beautiful & gripping display, that left me all chocked up,words can not display what i am feeling right now. thank you.
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