Cigarette Making: ‘After That, You Get a Bit of Newspaper, and Then…’ (1945)

'Cigar making'‘After That, You Det a Bit of Newspaper, … And Then …’

A 94 year old Ex  POW has told me that if they had a cigar, they would chop it up finely into many pieces and were then able to use newspaper to make many cigarettes that would last a long time, rather than to smoke one cigar, once it’s gone, it’s gone. Bill Schmit. Here we have what looks like ‘Port & Cigars’ at  an exclusive club. However old habits die hard and the ex POW is demonstrating a better and longer use for a ciagar that could be shared with others – making some cigarettes. Des paintings covered all classes and situations, often bringing out the humour while at the same time pointing out the extravegance of some enjoyed, while others suffered enourmously.

‘The POW’s who smoked suffered additional stress. The only affordable tobacco available came from Java. It was coarse and burned the throat and lungs when deeply inhaled. An alternative was the locally made cigars. These were cut int small circles, rubbed between the hands and rolled into cigarettes. The main problem was the shortage of suitable paper in which to roll the cut up cigars. “Tally – Ho” cigarette papers were not available to purchase.

It wasn’t too difficult for the enterprising Australians to find a solution. They used paper torn from their Bibles. They became experts at splitting the already flimsy paper and made for better smoking. After several pages were torn from the religious books they became useless to read and then were distributed to other smokers to be used in the same way. The Austarlain Padres took a dim view by the sacrilege to the Word of God, but nothing could be done to stop the preactice. However, a cmpromise was reached when the Padres requested, no demanded, that the text on the piece of Holy Scripture be read before it was rolled into a cigarette. It may have been the imagination of the Padres, but they claimed that there was an increase in the number of POWs attending the chruch services. Perhaps, sometimes God does work in mysterious ways.’

Source: Changi Teenage Soldiers by Gerard Sampson, pg147 (an unpublished manuscript / book)

‘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.