Calendar Illustration – November 1946

Calendar Illustration - November 1946Birds Were Not Meant To Be Eaten

This painting is from a 1946 Calendar that Des painted but is very similar to an earlier work. There are some slight differences though – can you spot them?

Des reported that anything that moved was eaten to supplement their meager rice portions. They even added grass to the rice to try to get some vitamins and flavor.

Birds were not meant to be eaten, because the POW’s observed which grasses and seeds the birds ate. They had been told that the grasses and seeds eaten by birds were suitable for human consumption and probably beneficial to their health. Another spin off from allowing birds to live, would of course been the supply of eggs to supplement their meager diet.

Here is a guilty looking officer concealing a catapult or sling shot behind his back, confronted by the equivalent of the Military Police in Changi. In the background can be seen the unforgettable Changi Jail wall and guard tower.

Of interest, in the background can be seen the unmistakable guard tower of the Changi Jail; a hut outside of the jail perimeter that would have housed more POW’s; and 2 POW’s cooking something over a fire.

‘Early in 1943 medical officers were very concerned about a number of diseases breaking out, caused in their opinion by the lack of vitamin B2 in the food. This vitamin is largely contained in green vegetables and meat, and our supply of these articles, if any, was always most meagre. It was reasoned out that grass, being a green, should contain the same vitamin, and so began a process to extract the vitamins from it. At first the grass was merely boiled and the water drained off and drunk, but the heat partially destroyed the vitamin, so a process was evolved to extract it cold.’

Source: Robert Morton, ‘The Vitamin Centre’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg., 227

Food supply and the maintenance of health were the most critical problems to be faced. After the first fortnight, during which British army rations were issued, prisoners had to make do with the Japanese ration scales, which consisted mainly of rice, and it was only gradually that the cooks devised means of making it palatable. Apart from rice, a little tea, sugar and salt were issued, together with the occasional ration of meat or fish. The Japanese refused to allow Red Cross relief parcels to be distributed, so any supplementing of the meagre rations depended on the ingenuity of the prisoners themselves. It was not difficult to find one’s way out of the camp, and some of the more intrepid prisoners would forage among the old British Army dumps and sell their finds at black market prices.’

Source: http://ukmamsoba.org/changi.htm

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