‘Practice Makes Perfect’ – Limb Factory Changi (1945)

limb seized IWM


It is interesting to note in the sketch of Des’ that soldiers with artificial limbs are assisted by a mate. Unfortunately this one has malfunctioned and is stuck in one position, creating comic relief for the other onlookers. Oh well, back to the manufacturer for some fine tuning, after all it is under warrantee.

‘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

‘Many hours were spent studying the patient and thinking out ways and means of how to fit the limb so that the maximum benefit would be gained. For a time, it was one big game of trial and error. A comfortable fit would be obtained, and after the patient had worn the limb for a period, due to the wasting of the tissues of the stump, the artificial limb would have to be remade.

The limbless will remember the early days in Changi when movement was a hardship, and later (when) the manufacture of artificial limbs raised morale and enabled them to take their place in activity alongside the fit men. Prospects of fitting employment at a later date … will be the least of the worries of others who have become so expert in the use of their limbs made from the proverbial ‘scrap heap’

Source: Purdon and S.Lad, ‘Artificial – Limb Making’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg., 223

‘Many men had amputations performed to save their lives and many will remain permanent invalids, while all will carry scars. Very few of even the small ulcers healed up under 100 days; many are still laid low after more than one year. The human wrecks that returned from the Burma – Thailand parties in December 1943 bore evidence of what our men were forced to suffer by their hosts. It all tended to confirm our view that (the Japanese) had no time for the sick man, as in their own country, at any rate, they had adequate replacements.’

Source: Burnett Clark, ‘Skin Disease Among Prisoners of War in Malaya’, in Lachlan Grant (ed.), The Changi Book, Published by New South in association with the Australian War Memorial, 2015, pg., 239

‘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