‘Cutting Wood for the Bucket’ – Limb Factory Changi (1945)

roughing up


‘Roughing up’ or shaping a bit of timber, very crudely, in readiness to be placed on the lathe. Note the spokeshave on the floor beside the stump.

‘There is not a man who has lost his right arm who cannot write as well with his left and do certain other work as efficiently a before, while to those who have lost a leg this has been an invaluable period of training in the use of his artificial limb. On behalf of the latter a tribute must be paid to the limb factory people who, with practically nothing to start from, managed to create an organisation for the work of which there can be nothing but praise.’

‘In addition to the above there was the regular parade every morning of the men who had lost a leg above the knee. This particular kind of amputation necessitated a longer artificial leg and one which was consequently much more difficult to wear. It was natural that these men should find walking with crutches much easier that using the artificial leg, and the result was that they were inclined to overlook practicing with the latter. To overcome this a parade was held every morning when all these fellows stalked mechanically along the road in front of the depot like so many robots. It was these in particular (to which) the name of the ‘Panzer Division’ was facetiously given (and) which afterwards came to include all those with artificial legs.’

Source: Rex Bucknell, ‘The Panzer Division’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg. 156, 158

‘In Changi there was an orthopedic workshop where the prisoners made crutches and artificial limbs out of wood and leather and any other material they could scrounge.’

Source: Down To Bedrock (the diary & secret notes of a Far East prisoner of war Chaplain) by Eric Cordingly, Pg 75; permission by Louis Reynolds, daughter.

‘And another workshop where filing cabinets and rubber trees were wrought into artificial limbs – beautiful pieces of work which their owners (hundreds of amputees from Thailand and Burma), preferred after the war to the products given them by a grateful Government at home. They were light and walked without squeaking and the young craftsmen who made them were happy to modify and modify until the stump of the leg fitted snugly and without chafing into the socket of the artificial limb.’
Source: The Naked Island by Russell Braddon; 1955 edition Pan Books Ltd, Pg 246

Transport problems were overcome with the advent of the trailer … which could be drawn along by 15 to 20 men according to the weight of the chassis. The importance of these trailers and their value to the camp as a method of transport cannot be exaggerated. Without them it would have been impossible to supply the camp with the quantities of fuel required.

So now, having an unlimited supply of firewood, the men and the tools to hew it, and tailers for transportation, it was not long before an efficient system was in operation. Axemen would fell and trim the trees, saw men would cut the timber into two foot lengths, the sawn timber was loaded onto trailers and hauled to a depot where the blocks were split. The split wood was then weighed and stacked ready for issue to the various units, who would arrange to collect their quota each day.’

‘Apart from the Forestry Company’s job of supplying firewood to the camp, it also provided timber for the seating of our AIF concert hall, goal posts for basketball courts, staging for group concert platforms, wood for moulds for the Artificial Limb Factory, and wood for the manufacture of clogs by the Convalescent Depot patients. The unit also provided its own axe helves and changkol and shovel handles.’

Source: E.J. Oraines, ‘The AIF Forestry Company’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg., 305, 308