‘You’ll Never Get Off The Island’ – Calendar Illustration for March 1946

Calendar Illustration - March 1946‘You’ll Never Get Off  The Island’

This could well be a caricature of Harry Smith, who was infamous for his down in the mouth look and his mournful cry ‘You’ll Never Get Off The Island’. He appeared at many concert parties and this cry and his expression, always bought the house down in laughter.

Typical of the humour of Changi was that mournful, catchphrase of the Australian Concert Party this comedian Harry Smith which became such a popular cry with the prisoners – ‘You’ll never get off the island!’

He was known as ‘Happy Harry’ and got his laughs from looking and sounding miserable. His act was to appear extremely depressed and he was so over the top with his pessimism, he was in fact, funny. He always opened his act with a dejected look on his face and then stating miserably to all present ‘You’ll never get off this island’. It was a sure way of getting a good laugh of the prisoners of war suffering under the Japanese.

‘In order to cope, I believe, most men surrounded themselves in their own personal and protective armour. Mine, as I have already written, was work, an almost obsessive sense of duty; for others it was humour or religious faith; and for nearly all of us, it was the setting of a deadline: ‘home by Christmas’ or ‘home for my wife’s birthday, or some other date of personal significance. In establishing a mental goal to work towards we were focussing on a future life which we could anticipate living and, in the process, attempt to reject the reality of what we were experiencing, deferring our disappointment. Keeping an ‘end point’ in mind, even though deep down we know it was artificial, gave us hope – one of the most powerful weapons in the limited armoury of defence we could own. If we were to not only survive but also remain sane, it was all we could do.

Source: A Doctors War, by Dr Rowley Richards, pg 157, Harper Collins Publishers, 2006.

Thank you: State Library of New South Wales, Mitchell Library Special Collections where this Calendar is archived