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  1. The whole family enjoyed seeing the experiences of Uncle Des come to life. I remember him visiting our family ‘The Cannons’ in Burnley and he would always leave us lovely drawings as a memento of his vist. These images are more powerful and really detailed the guns, ships and planes are engineering drawing quality. The architectural detail is excellent too as is the action. Brilliant, well done.

    • Thanks for the feedback Heather, hopefully you can spread this to your friends, work mates, family and other contacts.
      It is quite amazing that this art work was done prior to dad going to art school to ‘learn’ how to draw, he was an industrial chemist at this time.
      I think his father or grandfather were artistic so it is ‘in the blood’ and has been passed down to Graham and Ruth and some other nieces and nephews.

      Dad told me he did the paintings ‘to keep my sanity’ and I guess that is why most are a light hearted look at Changi life as a POW.
      I keep discovering more little hidden things in some of his drawings, keep looking.

      • I am very touched on this Hong Kong Rememberace weekend In Ottawa. The Japanese gave an official apology to all the Canadian POW’s this week. Many relatives and a few survivors of the War Camps all say it is a little late. I am so pleased at what your family has put together on my cosin by marriage. I really did not realize all that these men went through. I have a print of Des’s given to us by cousin Hugh at one of the reunions. Hope to see all my Australian Cousins at the next reunion Sally

        • Thanks Sally, yes, these guys, and most I guess in WW2 were in their late teens early twenties when they were thrown into this bloodshed. Dad often told us ‘I painted to keep my sanity’. I guess that is why a lot of the figures are well built, plump, pink, clothing is pretty good as well as the food. This would have been a complete contrast to the reality around him, but who wants to live in it and then drill it in even more by painting those sad images. Dad used his humour and art well before ‘art therapy’ was even thought of. Also, some of the guys would go into ward Z or X of the hospital tents, which was the last stop before death, to provide humour and it is recorded that they were told off by the medical officer for the noise (laughter) these men had created through the sick and dying. This was well before the advent of ‘laughter doctors’ who go to our hospitals now and do valuable work among the young and dying.
          It’s amazing the amount of theatre programs they wrote and acted out. Some of the POW’s were professional actors, musicians, directors, women impersonators. You can view some of these figures in ‘caricatures & portraits’.
          Cheers for now and please spread the word of the site among your email and facebook contacts.

  2. Thank you
    I read Keiths article in the Naional ex prisoner of war association, newsletter. I looked at the images with interest, for I am researching into the life of my uncle Jack Salt 30HAA who was forced to work on the Burma Railway. The images and written information are extremely moving. Therefore, thank you again for sharing the information with us.

    • Hi Kathryn, our family is keen for this website to be better known, so if you can email friends with it, put it on facebook, etc that would be great. Dad drew a telling pen drawing entitled ‘Fancy Dress Ball’ under ‘Contemplating the Future’. In it, one guy is dressed as a Prisoner of War from Changi, the other guests are asking ‘where is this…Changi anyway?’ Lest we forget.
      For your interest, you may want to contact your local council, MP, RSL, etc to find out how they are going to commemorate the Fall of Singapore, 70th Anniversary next month on 15 Feb 2012.
      One thing I am glad of that dad did many of his paintings in humor, not so depressing.

  3. Excellent Cartoon work! I myself am a Cartoonist since a teenager, and i greatly admire his witty humor and unique style! My own Father was a Dutch POW in Java, and my Family still has a pencil sketch done of him by a fellow prisoner in 1945 who didn’t survive like my Dad did… We will have this special memento in our Family for generations to come, it is priceless!

  4. Thank you for this Insightful look into your dads work I am an ex navyman having served 20 years I am one of the administrators of the RAN cooks site and we have in 700 plus members with 350 of them on line so i will get this link put on our site.

    The link was sent to me from one of our members from Tassy I will ensure that Pass it on to all on my list I have not had the chance to look at the whole site in its entirety . But i will do tonight .I work in the RSL villas in angle Park here in Adelaide I volunteer 2 days a week and i perform a variety of roles at the home my wife also volunteers also she teaches computer to the residents and they love it .

    With your permission Can i please copy and paste some of the art work of your dad for some of the residents and to be used in our Quarterly newsletter . I have seen some of your dads work before and i have a feeling it maybe in one of my many books .

    The books i am referring to are SOLDIERING ON STAND EASY and JUNGLE WARFARE there are many cartoons in these books and no doubt some of your dads maybe in these I have a full collection of the RAN and RAAF books as well i will look through them tonight .

    In conclusion i would like to commend all involved in setting up this webpage it is a fitting tribute to your dad and a real labour of love an admiration Well done all
    Best wishes
    Wayne Quinn

    • Hi Wayne,

      Yes you have our permsission to copy some images for your newsletter and for the residents also as long as you acknowledge the work: “Des Bettany’s artwork is reproduced with kind permission of his family. To see more images, refer to”
      Like you we also live in Adelaide.
      I am very interested in the books you mention and am aware dad gave a lot of his works away. If you find any of his work, could you please advise through the website or to me direct. I will advise you of my email address.
      Keep up the great work you are doing and thank you for your kind comments.


  5. great drawings.
    Lest We Forget

    • Thanks Mick for your encouragement,


  6. These are absolutely wonderful. Thank you so much for sharing the Website. I am President of the Ulverstone RSL Sub Branch, in N W Tasmania and have sent the site address onto one of my surviving POW’s and to several rellies of those POW’s who are no longer with us. I know one POW who would have been rapt to see them, had he been alive. He spent 14months in Changi, 14 months on the Thai/Burma railway and 14months in a coal mine in Nagasaki and still lived to 88yrs! His sense of humour was what got him through his ordeals. The surviving POW mentioned above, was 16 when he was a prisoner in Changi and is 86yrs now. I rang to tell him about the site and he gave me his email address, can you believe that! So proud of the adaptability of our old soldiers!

    • Thanks Libby for spreading the word. The idea is to get these images out that have been in dad’s cupboard up to now and to let other generations know of what occured. I’d be really interested in feedback from your friend who was a POW.

  7. These very moving drawings brought back memories of my father in law who was a Changi POW until being shipped to Sandakan in Borneo. A number of the stories he told of Changi have been replicated in Des Bettany’s drawings.

    What a pity these men are no longer with us to tell us more.

    • Thank you Don for your kind comments, I totally agree it is a pity that many of these men are gone. I have thousands of questions to ask dad about some of the art work that I don’t understand the humour in it, there may well have been hidden messages that the Japanese couldn’t pick up in it. Please share with others.

  8. I’ve just finished looking at all your father’s drawings and reading the information on your website. An article in The Advertiser ‘Lost World of War’ with the web address, and a sneak preview of 2 drawings, peaked my interest. My father was forced into labour in Germany during the war, but I know only a little of what those ‘prisoners’ experienced. So I think it’s wonderful that you and your family are sharing this special legacy left by a talented man, your father – Thank you so much.

    • Yes, dad was the same, didn’t say much about his time in WW2 but I’m so glad he painted, we have a bit of an insight

  9. Breaking and exciting news, a grand daughter of an ex POW who lived in Wales has realized that some of Des Bettany’s artwork done in Changi,was given to her grandfather, Sgt W.W. Sowter. Scanned copies of this have been forwarded and can now be seen on the site under ‘caricatures and portraits’.
    Should you have any such artwork, please make contact to enable a scanned copy can be uploaded onto this site.
    Thank you,

    Keith Bettany

  10. Keith

    Thank you for allowing me to use one of your father’s drawings on the front cover of the April edition of the newsletter of the McLaren Vale RSL Sub Branch. I will email you a copy when I have finished it. Your Website is fantastic.

    John Gyepes
    McLaren Vale RSL Sub Branch

  11. Keith,

    My Grandfather was a POW at Changi also after the fall of Singapore till the end of the war. He worked part of the time as a medical orderly I believe with Weary Dunlop. The cartoon showing the search with the POW hiding a gun behind his back caught my eye. It reminded me of a story I learnt, that once he was hiding a pistol under his bed when a search was launched in his quarters. He was standing by his bed with a recent photo of his wife and 8 kids that had been sent to him. The commander saw it and stood by him talking about his own family. The others stayed away from them while searching. When the others had finished they then left without touching his bed. This photo was credited with saving his life!

    Thanks for the website. I will pass the link to other members of the family. They will be very interested.

    • Thanks for that story about your grandfather Daniel.I wonder how many other similar stories have been shared. I’d love to here them.
      I did hear 2 weeks ago of a POW of the Japanese who was an artist. The person in charge of the camp pointed out places of interest to paint from, such as the top of some ridges, but made it clear that he must take a particular guard with him. The guard was elderly, and each time they got out the gate, the guard would hand his rifle to the POW to carry ‘too heavy’. Upon return, the POW would hand it back before re entering he gates.

  12. My late father was a Changi POW medic captured at the fall of Singapore, Robert George Gregson, known as George, NX25185, 10th Field Amb. This collection of art which is now preserved in electronic form for all to see and appreciate is a testament to the humour, (and pain suffered), by a generation of courageous and tough blokes who survived experiences we cannot even imagine.
    Dad seldom spoke of his time as a POW and this exhibition helps to fill in some way my understanding of that time.
    Thanks for sharing these most wonderful memories and stories in the great artworks.

    • Thank you for your comments about your late dad and the art work. These men surely went through hell as you suggest and at such a young age. Dad seldom talked about his time either in Changi, but later in his life a few stories were revealed.

  13. Read article in S A.Life April edition. My friend Ron Cranwell lived next door to your parents in Quinlan Avenue.Enjoyed my visits to Des and Irene and chats over the fence.
    Have contacted Kathryn and Ron’s brother LLoyd re the article and drawings.

    • I knew Ron and the family very well, neighbours. He was a real gentleman.

  14. Keith, one of my mothers friends Johnny Gibson was in Changi and although he never talked about it much he did give me many years ago one of the Pygmalion programmes from the 21st February 1945, Coconut Grove Theatre production. After all the years of having this I finally started to see what I could find on the internet. It is remarkable that each of the programmes was unique. The one I have which has the same sketch and general layout and colouring also has a number of differences to the one shown on the website. It makes me wonder whether any others survived. The signature in the bottom corner looks like Gilbet. Do you know how they did something like this or how many would have been made for each production?

    • Thanks Gavin, Yes I think they had a production line type of thing going. The AWM (Australian War Memorial) should be able to give you some information as my brother was asked to provide what he knew. Also, a new book is being prepared about this, you can view, hear the text and researcher on

      • Keith, one further coincidence from this story is that my partner Dorothy comes from Adelaide now (Largs Bay) but in 1963 was a pupil at the Wyhalla High School. When did Des leave there?

        • We live in Adelaide, I was down Largs last week and will be there again this week, nice place. Des (and we) were in Whyalla from Feb 1958 to 1960. We arrive there from UK as dad was a teacher. The house wasn’t finished so we lived in a shed on the beach in Feb, temp outside 114 degrees. We were on McBride Tce, runs beside rail line to Iron Knob, and were the last house in the town (now more like the centre of town). Small world isn’t it? Are you in Adelaide?

  15. Hi Keith, I just had a look at your dad’s artwork. He was obviously a talented and special man. I can imagine he would have been a great encouragement to those around him during those terrible times. I will pass on your site to my Facebook friends.

  16. Dear family of Des,
    Thanks for the attention upon your website with a large number of impressive drawings made by you Des.
    It looks good to me this very personal nature of work and experience is to show the world in the hope that this kind of misery can not take place.

    Raphael Smid

    • Thanks Raphael, your comments are very much appreciated from the Netherlands.

  17. Very interesting well done Keith!

    • Thank you Philip, if you could let others know we would appreciate that, trying to get the word around. As you will notice, lots of drawings of 25 pounders. Dad was lance bombardier on these and loved them all of his life. So we have made a separate category ‘The Guns’ for those interested in artillery.
      Thanks for your encouragement,
      Best regards,

  18. My late Father was a survivor of the Japanese POW camps. Goodness knows how anyone survived. What a great bunch of guys.

    A few years ago I visited Thailand and the Hellfire Pass which brought some of the horrors home to me, but even so, what they went through is unimaginable.

    Sadly my Father died in his early seventies and his stories went with him, apart from the few he shared.Like many other POWs he was reticent to talk about what went on.

    I’ve shared this site on Facebook. Hopefully it will reach a few more people.

  19. Very moving website Keith and family. AS young boy my Father was based at RAF Changi in the late 60’s, we used to pass the prison every day on the way to school.

    It is only in my later years that I begin to appreciate the sheer hell that the POW’s suffered there during WWII. God bless them all.

  20. Any chance of a book or catalogue, I love the site, but am old fashioned! UK

  21. In ’64 I was in Malaya because of the so-called Confrontation with Indonesia. We had to re-construct and old airfield at Alor Star, just south of the Thai border. We had to work fairly hard in quite unpleasant conditions. This was nothing compared to the poor lads in WWII under Japanese captivity. We had four meals a day and could stop for a long refreshing drink of cold beer whenever we wished. Nobody was pushing or beating us, nobody yelling, and a doctor available to attend the merest scratch.

    When I think back to those days compared with the suffering these poor lads experienced, it makes me blush. I could never experience self-pity again.

    Kind regards
    Mike Roberts
    Singapore/Malaya 63-65

  22. Thank you, Keith, for putting up Des’s artwork. My father, Gunner WL (Les) Hill was a member of the RFA and I think wound up in F Troop after fighting his way down the Malay Peninsula. After Changi he got the grand tour, being sent to the Railway, then coppermining in Formosa at Kinkaseki and finally coal mining in northern Japan. Like many of the POW’s he found it extraordinarily hard to talk about his experiences, -today it would be called ‘survivor guilt’, – so seeing these pictures has helped me to come to terms with the man he became as a result of the war. After the war he was given a small, self-published book of drawings of POW life; could the author have been Des?

  23. I read about this website in the Daily Telegraph this morning.

    I am the President of an Old Bys Club (the Clove Club) and have just published a new History of our School incorporating the Roll of Honour for both World Wars. Sadly, while the dead are relatively easy to find, those who survived and returned are more often than not overlooked.
    We now have the ability to record their names and this Des Bettany site, beside being a wonderful tribute to the man himself, stands as a memorial to all his colleagues who stayed in Asia. Probably some of our Old Boys were among them, though it is difficult to be sure.
    Thank you for providing this wonderful site, and thank you, belatedly, to Des.
    Willie Watkins

  24. My father was also in 88 Regiment and talked of the humour so essential to sanity. I wonder now whether he was referring to these cartoons. Very thought provoking. Theirs was a different world.

  25. brilliant drawings article in todays daily express so came on to the site. the humour hides the terrible years Les and his mates went through.Never Never forget the men who suffered but remained full of spirit and the will to record
    these times. Superb, funny and emotive at the same time RIP LES

  26. Also visited after seeing Daily Express. What a resilient man, with such an imagination. I was moved by his accounts; I knew a POW many years ago but he could never talk of the experience. I am thinking fondly of him as I write this. Thank you.

  27. Thank you for this wonderful academy of pictures. A testament to the human spirit rising above the horrors encountered each day. On behalf of all those who have no voice, thank you Keith and thank you and RIP Des, you certainly fulfilled the aim to “keep going the spirit that kept us going”. We honour the few now still with us and we remember those who have gone, “when you go home tell them of us and say – for your tomorrow we gave our today.”

  28. My late father, Ernest William Sansom (Bill), was a POW in Changi and he had to help build the Railway. A very brave man and I am very proud of him. I wish I had asked him to tell me more about the time he spent there, but I was worried about him being reminded of all the awful things that he was forced to endure and all the friends that he had lost. I found your father’s drawings very interesting. Thanks for sharing them with us.

  29. Fabulous paintings and drawings by Des. It reminded me when my husband and I visited Changi Museum in February 2010. We also went to the cemetary of all the brave men who fought for Singapore. It brought tears to our eyes looking around the museum and also paying our respects to those in the cemetary. I was born in 1951 after all this happened but I feel for all the horrific suffering that they endured. We should all honour them for what they went through.

  30. Thank you Keith so very much for the information received.

    Des’s art work is a religion and education of survival and passing it on for the good of humanity.

    Now is the time for history to change so that it never happens again.

    Des’s art work is the perfect way to pass on so as to push for Peace.

    The world I feel is at a critical stage in time where history could be repeated.

    I truly hope not.

    Finding out about my grand father although such a heart breaking back ground it has given me the courage and curiosity no mater how painful the pictures and stories and poems I discover are, I will continue to push for peace.

    I still have allot to find out although I know the day my grand father was captured and killed I do not know what camp he was held at.

    To all the men of courage that were imprisoned and suffered that died and were set free with the deepest respect I salute you and pledge in your name I will push for peace.

    I hope that some day all the graves of all the brave men that are around the world can be brought home and situated in place they so rightfully deserve.

    Love and peace to you and your family.

    Kerry Bird

  31. I have looked through almost all of this website and I am moved, impressed and honored to “meet” this gentleman – and I mean that in the deepest sense of the word – who created art in the midst of a hell I cannot imagine.

    The Changi Limb Factory is remarkable – sanity, humor, generosity of spirit in the middle of that.

    I came across your site referenced in a site called Prisoners of War of the Japanese, 1942-1945, on their guestbook.

    You mention a few times that you would like to spread the word. May I suggest a presence on Twitter? I would be certain to follow your site.

  32. I’ve just found your site tonight while looking for information on Willis Toogod who I now know was an entertainer and female impersonator in Changi during the war! You have very kindly used my description of meeting him on your site and I had always tried to find nout more about this very thin rather effeminate man who, these days I would mprobably describeas being rather camp! At 10 years old 1958, had no idea what that meant. I just knew he was very kind and gentle, called my mother ‘dahling rosy bottom’ because of a well placed flower on her print dress, had peacocks in the garden and served hot tea in china cups in the heat of his garden in Cyprus. He was a broadcaster with British Forces Network and I think became its head later. Many thanks for filling in the pieces in my little jigsaw. I grew up as an army child and in common with others, my father and his friends never spoke of the horror and suffering they experienced. I’m just sorry that I didn’t listen enough when my dad did choose to speak -it’s too late to ask questions now. Once again, thank you.

  33. I remember Des so fondly. One particular time he was with Dorothy and Hugh Fulton at Hayhill Houuse and Des and I used to sit in the front conservatory as the two token smokers.
    Those were the days and all this evokes memories of my cousin Rene as a land girl inehe environs of Lancaster.
    Thanks for the memories Keith !

  34. It is thanks to Des and his comerades that we are free today, thank you to all the men and women who have and are serving in our armed forces from the people of Burnley.
    It would be nice to know a bit more about his time in the town.

  35. a most beautiful & gripping display, that left me all chocked up,words can not display what i am feeling right now. thank you.

  36. Keith, many thanks for sharing. My uncle was also a POW at Changi, Sandakan and finally Kuching. Your father’s drawings were poignant reminders of what he went through. In spite of spending time with my uncle around campfires on many occasions he did not speak of his experiences. I finally persuaded him to speak of them to me just prior to his death. The drawings gave life to the memories I have of what my uncle said. Thanks again.

    • Thanks John, feel free to share the site broadly

  37. A splendid memorial to your father and his service. It brings to life in a most unique way what these men went through, and also shares his memories in a way that brings those years to life. I hope you don’t mind, but I shared this remarkable site with a major veteran website so what you’ve chosen so generously to share can be seen by many others. Thank you and thank you to your father.

    • Thanks Thomas for doing that, much appreciated.

  38. Hi, these are really good! did he draw these works when he was a prisoner, if he did, flipping nora he must have been so brave!!! are there any of his works exhibited in the UK? I would love to go and see some? you must be so proudxxxxx

    • Hi Trisha,
      Thanks for your comments, dad grew up in Burnley and the Lancashire Gallery have some of his works that they sometimes put on display. Have a look at our website again under ‘talks and exhibitions’ to find out more.
      We are very proud of him and thankful that after 60 years in a cupboard, we can display these. Of course you have access to all of his works on this site that he did in ww2 and in Changi.


  39. Brilliant Paintings SIR! Like watching a documentary, which it should be. Thank you for the history that really has been forgotten.

    • Thank you David,
      Read the book by Eric Lomax, ‘The Railway Man’, it has just been produced as a film and released in Canada. To view the trailer go to:

  40. During the period 1949-1952 I lived in Tangling Barracks ( 1 Dempsey Road). At this time my father Sgt Gerald Clark was in the APTC (now Royal) and he worked with the prisoners in Changi Goal. So this article about Des and all the comments above have been quite nostalgic and emotive for me but I thank you allowing me to share them with you. Love the art work so talented

    • Thanks Maureen for your kind comments. As a family we are trying to get the word out and about from Australia where we have been since 1958 and I wonder if you would kindly post the website link to your contacts, FB friends; link to websites, etc? As you know the site is


  41. A big pat on the back for getting these sketches on the web for all to see. Our group members comments on ‘The Railway Man’ were that it did not capture the horror and torment the PoWs went through, these sketches do.
    A must view for anyone who had family members in the Far East in WWII.
    Well done !!!

  42. I have a book ‘Changi Industries Incorporated’ with illustrations by Des Bettany. It chronicles the activities of the Commanb Rubber Factory – their efforts of improvistion given the difficulty of acquiring any material with which to work. It was the property of my father-in-law who was a prisoner in Changi. I imagine it must have had a reasonably wide circulation so you may know of it already. Gerald Vinestock

    • Hi from Australia Gerald,
      Thanks for alerting us to the existence of the book, I think we have it, we found only found this in 2012, so much is being scanned and emailed back to us.
      The book we have is:
      “Don’t Ever Again Say ‘It Can’t Be Done’: The Story of Changi Industries Inc.”; by Captain John G. Clemetson; (Sept 2005); Changi Museum P/L, Singapore; ISBN 981-05-4257- 7
      Is this the same on as your father in law bought home?
      What was your father in laws name, I can do a search and see if he was in any theatre programs or any of dad’s paintings.

  43. I saw the cartoon published in the Telegraph today and my mind went back to an old friend, Reg Ryder, who was a Japanese POW. He hated anything Japanese and would walk through a storm rather than even take a lift in a Japanese car. he said very little about his experiences but I do remember my last vist to see him that was so terrible. He was in Barnet Hospital, dying, and he told me it was worse in there than anything he had experienced during the war. I could do nothing for him but still carry a feeling of guilt for the failures of the NHS and the awful people who should have taken care of him at the end. May he rest in peace.

    • Hi Peter,
      Thank you for your kind comments. About your friend Reg Ryder, he like my dad when he was dying in hospital told us it was worse than Changi, that they wouldn’t give him anything to drink and they handcuffed him to the bet all night. As a Registered Nurse, I beleive dad, and possibly Reg may have had a delirium causing great confusion. Google DELIRIUM and read about it. Also, who knows what people go through in the terminal stages of and illness leading to death, all the organs close down too. I can’t beleive any thing would be worse than Changi and the state the guys were left in, no food, beaten for no reason, expected to work 12 hour shifts, diseases and seeing your mates die about you. I am in Australia but I’m sure no one goes to work for NHS to be cruel, although you may get the odd ‘odd ball’, most are very caring people.
      Once again thanks for your comments and I trust this helps, please keep telling people about the website, it is so important. How about your local journalist??

  44. As for the “Roman Soldier” cartoon: in those days, after WWI, while Roman Army was still being analised as a superb war machine, focus had began to shift to the individual legionaire, wich was (and still is)regarded as one of the the hardiest, toughest and more disciplined warrior of all times, accustomed to break camp at dawn (a fortified camp whit moat and palisade), march 30 miles per day, drill, march some more, and then set camp again at dusk. All that in times of peace. So the cartoon,while indeed political, doesn’t refer to any particular circumstance but the common footman’s plea, saying that even a Roman legionaire would have asked Churchill for a little less strain.

    • Big, though and battered he’s still asking for a break…

    • Thanks Ariel, I’ve added your comments, which are most useful into the site under the picture of Churchill. I’ve also aknowledge the source, you, if you need anything changed please let me know. Also we have just been on Current Affairs TV in Adelaide, there is a link under the heading on the site ‘talks and exhibitions’ go halfway down the page and you will see the hyperlink to the short video. Once again, thank you so much for your comments.

  45. My late wife and family lived in Singapore at the time when the Japanese invaded, she was five years old and the youngest of her four siblings, her mother and five children managed to escape and were evacuated to South Africa for the duration of the war, but her father who I think at that time was a Captain in the British Army, was captured and spent three years in Changi Jail he would most probably, have been a friend of your father, his name was Stanley John Cole (known as Jasper)and had produced some of the shows for which your father had produced the excellent artwork.
    After their release, and on their way home by sea they produced another show which I cannot remember the title of, but Jasper brought the program back, together with a collection of others, probably all produced by your father.
    His family made a joint decision that the only way to be sure that they would be kept safe and in good condition was to present them to the Imperial War Museum in London.
    The curator of that department looked through the cast of some of the shows and came up with the diaries of some of the people listed, which referred to them taking part in the shows on the dates given on the programs.
    You must be very proud of your father and his talent especially remembering that the materials available were so basic.


    • Hi Doug,
      Thank you for that and of course I do know of your father in law, Captain SJ Cole, he was a stage manager and took part in so many theatre productions. When I say ‘I know’, I mean, I know of him through dad’s artwork.
      Thank you for contacting me and letting us know part of your late wife’s history, what a story.
      I will email you tongight with some more information so we can have a private discussion, should you wish.

  46. Hi Keith, Many thanks for your reply, I am in Spain for a couple of weeks but then returning to UK, where I will be able to access a few more details of my late father-in-law. It really is great to know that such an important part of that terrible time in history was made more bearable by your fathers light hearted pictures, I feel that some might even have made the Japanese smile!
    It is a very important part of one side of the jigsaw, the other side is the one that so many were unable to talk about. – keep up the good work.

    Best regards


  47. Thanks Keith for sharing your dads artwork, plus the site is a pleasure to use. All the best with your talks and exhibitions. Keep the Candle Burning – Ron

  48. i lived in Singapore late 60s to early 70s. On a visit back there in 1993 I visited Changi gaol and bought a copy of the theatre poster for the Noel Coward production, Tonight at 8.30. I still have it in a frame. Even though it’s a copy, it’s something I have treasured. I was intrigued about the artist. How wonderful to read all about your father! I’m so pleased to have come across your website. Thank you!

    • Hi June,
      Thank you for your kind comments. When we scanned dad’s artwork we were overwhelmed at the volumne of work he produced as a POW to keep himself and others sane. You will see over 300 paintings he did on this site. Since the site has been up we have had an addtional 50 paintings scanned and emailed back to us from all of the world. These were paintings dad gave to his mates. Now the relatives who are aware of the website are kindly giving us a copy. We just wonder how much more is out there as not many are aware of the site. Now about your program ‘Tonight at 8.30’ if you see BETT in the lower Right Hand corner my dad painted this. Also for your interest if you go to the site and click on ‘exhibitions and talks’ and go half way down the page you will see a link to a 4 minute interview we did late last year for Channel 7. Please share the site with your contacts. These paintings have been stuck in a cupboard for 70 years.
      Cheers for now,


      • Yes, the copy I have is your dad’s art work. I have shared a link to this site on my Facebook page. I’m fascinated by the work your father did – he was talented and gifted. It’s wonderful that you’ve put together this site so share his work with the world!

        • Thanks June,
          What I think occurred as there were so many POW’s and different ‘huts’ and areas, they had a bit of a production line going to produce several leaflets for each program. I know of a lady at the AWM (Australian War Museum) who has done a lot of research into the theatre and the programs, she has a folder full of programs. we are just trying to flesh out a bit more of what some of dad’s painting meant by talking to ex POW’s and people who know. I really appreciate your contact, keep it up and thanks for spreading the word, much appreciated. Are you now living in Australia or elsewhere?

  49. Amazing! Simply amazing. If I were able to give only one “wow” in a lifetime…it would be yours.

    • Dwight, thank you for your comment, exactly what I think as dad had no formal training till after the war in art. My suspicions are that other artists saw his work and may have encouraged him to go to art school, not back to the mills after the war. He followed their advise and taught tertiary art for the rest of his life.
      Please share with your contacts

  50. All my life I’ve been told of my great uncle Jack who survived the Spanish Civil War and Dunkirk to then be captured in Singapore. I was always told that he didn’t have a grave as he was lost at sea, (one of a group of prisoners used as a human shield).

    However while I was searching for the grave of my Great Grandfather, who died as a POW in the Great War, I discovered this was not the case and Uncle Jack is actually buried at Kanchanburi War Cemetery. As Jack and his wife great aunt Ellen never had children, I felt it was only right that I do my best to investigate as much as I can. So having found out his regiment details I was able to find this inspirational site, which is a credit to the bravery of men like Des that risked their lives creating these drawings. My only regret is I’m too late to be able to ask Des if he knew and / or remembered Jack.

    As we are approaching the anniversary of VJ day I would like to share a copy of one or two of Des’ drawings with a link to this site as these men should never be forgotten, if that is acceptable to you.

    Finally if there is anyone that visits this site knows anything about my uncle Jack I would love to hear from them, his details are;

    Sergeant John (Jack) Henry Lockyer 88th Field Regt. Royal Artillery died 17th July 1943 aged 36.

    • Hi Clare and thank you for you kind comments and of course, please share the link to this website to as many as you can, the more the better. We immigrated with dad & mum to Australia in 1958, but isn’t the internet great to be able to make contact like this?
      About Sergeant John (Jack) Lockyer of the 88th Field Reg, RA, TA – this is the same regiment dad was in, he was a lance bombadier on 25 pounder guns, who knows, they may have known each other. 88th Field Reg saw action in Europe, were evacuated through Dunkirk and re mobbed to North Malaya, then driven down to Singapore where they with 100,000 other troops became POW’s of the Japanese.
      You may be interested in a book the website refers to and it’s all about the 88th Field Reg “Lancashire Gunners at War: The 88th Field Regiment, 1939 – 1945”; by Stephen Bull (1999); Redwood Books, Trowbridge, Wilts, UK; ISBN 1-85936-068-8. Get your local library to buy it in, you will learn more. My dad was from Burnley and I am guessing your Uncle Jack was from around there too?
      Once again, thanks for the contact and great to see your interest in your relatives brave sacrifice.
      Cheers, Keith

  51. Thanks for posting these pictures from Changi. My Father N.F.J. Diemel a KNIL soldier was a prisoner at Changi and also died there in 1945 at the end of the war.

    • Hi Nico, so sad he had been through so much and died right toward the end of their time in there. Thank you for making contact. Over 70 additional paintings have so far been scanned and emailed back to us by family of ex POW’s that dad obviously gave artwork to in Changi.
      I’ve searched dad’s theatre programs and couldn’t locate your dad’s name, however I am sure you are very proud of him and what he did for us all.

  52. Hi Keith.

    My father William ‘Bill’ Norways (1918-86) was a FEPOW from Feb 1942 – Sept 1945 (Singapore, Changi, then Thai-Burma Railway, Various Camps, then Singapore, Kranji). I am currently researching a PhD on his story.

    Bill was also an artist. He did several high quality sketches and paintings of the camps, which (remarkably) made it back to the UK. He also helped design numerous concert programmes. He was friends with Padre Wearne, Richard Goodman, Hugh Eliot, Jon Mackwood, and Derek Cooper, who appear in many of your programmes.

    In fact, I have numerous ‘parallel’ designs to yours. My father drew/painted concert programmes for ‘The Admirable Deighton’ (interestingly not spelt ‘Dyeton’), ‘Dancing Tears’, and ‘I Killed the Count’.

    Drop me a line for more info.

    Best wishes,

    Toby Norways

    • Hi Toby,
      I was thrilled to get your email about your dad & artist Bill. Do you have any of his artwork, it is so precesious?
      I have done a quick search of dad’s programs and Pdr Wearne was in Max Revels & helped produce Midsummer Follies.
      Jon Mackwood was in: Dover Raod, Badger Green, I Killed the Count, Max Revels.
      Dereck Cooper was in all of the above plus He Came BAck, Midsummer Follies, Love Laughs, The Litle Admiral, Aladdin, Hay Fever, Stardust, Swingtime, Suspect, Five Moods. He acted and was involved in set design / decore / scenery
      Richard Goodman was in too many to count.
      If you hover the your mouse over the thumbnails of any image you will see a circle (enlarges image) or a square (gives details). In the later, scroll down the page of a given theatre program to see the cast, etc that was the insert.
      Lets keep in touch.


    • Hi Toby,
      I was reading the comments and was taken aback when I came to yours.
      Richard Goodman was my father and your dad, Bill, was my brother Stephen’s Godfather.
      What a small world eh?

      Diane (nee Goodman)

  53. Hi Keith,
    Thank you ever so much for putting your father’s work online. I chanced upon ‘The Great Raid’ (about the rescue of the prisoners at Cabanatuan) yesterday evening and have spent part of the afternoon looking up info on POW camps.
    My father was a POW of the Japs during WW2 but he wouldn’t talk about his experience, including when asked by schoolteachers up to half a century later. I know little bits, but not enough to piece out where he was, he always said he was in ‘Indochina’, without further precision! I know he was taken on a least one death march, during which many of the men were murdered when they collapsed, or died of thirst. He always said he was extremely lucky to be alive, and that he still didn’t understand how he had survived, and I think he felt guilty as some of his fellow prisoners, to whom he owes his life (they stole drugs for him, shared their food with him when he wasn’t allowed any as he was too weak to work, sacrificed their water for him, kept him on his feet and walking on the death march) didn’t make it. He used to stay the men who died at the camp were the real heros.
    Your pictures really brought to mind bits he had talked about: aggressive mosquitoes swarming everywhere and preventing you from resting at night; how if your feet were not in good shape, you were as good as dead; how he and the other men had hardly any clothes to wear (he made jokes about the loincloths…) by the time they were freed; the parades and headcounts; the Red Cross parcels which didn’t go through. Like many men, he was presumed to have died some time around 1942, the postcards he sent my grandparents probably never left the camp, and they were extremely shocked to learn in 1945 that he was still alive, and even more shocked to see how much weight he had lost! Like your grandmother, mine had a difficult time working out what foods he could digest and in what quantities, and eventually worked out a strategy where she would feed him small quantities of food every couple of hours. In the meantime, he would take long walks, to regain his strength, and do body building exercises, to put some muscles back on his frame.
    I loved the picture with the giant pineapple: one trick my father and the men in his hut used to keep their spirits was to fantasize about all the foods they would eat once they were freed, drawing up menus for imaginary banquets. My father did become quite a gourmet, bought the revised guide to the Michelin starred restaurants in France every year, and would visit quite a few of them each year (and his favorite ones, every year), taking copious notes 🙂
    I think he went back to some of the places where he was prisoner on his honeymoon trip in the 70’s (he spent several months touring South East Asia) but again he would not talk about it (the marriage was not a success and my mother was quite a bitch, saying really nasty things about his time as a POW), it was really a private pilgrimage. He was always incensed whenever people mentioned they were going to Indonesia or whatever on ‘holiday’ or when people (like my mother) fawned about Japanese (or Korean) ‘civilisation’. He was particularly angry that there was no equivalent of the Nurnberg trial, and that the guards who had tortured and murdered the prisoners were allowed to return home as if nothing had happened, and that the whole suffering was just brushed under the carpet. On the other hand, he was extremely grateful to some of the natives who had tried and help the POWs, smuggling food to them.
    Again, thank you very much for putting these drawings online. They must have been a huge help to the people who were detained with your father. I wish the book that was confiscated by the Japs would materialise, can’t help wondering what was in it!
    Best wishes.

    • Thanks Helene for your encouragement. Since 1958 we have lived in Australia – maybe due in part to the tall stories dad heard as a POW and the Australian’s dry sense of humour.
      Can you share the website with your contacts and even local media – you have a story to tell. Like your dad, mine didn’t talk about his time until later on in his life when he would just tell some funny stories of how they sabotaged their work and frustrated the Japanese Guards. Dad told me the Japanese were ‘angels’ compared to the Korean guards – he told me if they didn’t beat them hard enough, the Japanese would beat the Korean guards.

  54. I am the Chairman and Archivist for the Royal Air Force Changi Association, and I met Keith at the Changi Museum in Singapore several years ago. I think that it is wonderful that Keith’s Father Des has managed to leave the vast amounts of artwork that are now available on the internet. I took the opportunity to download several pictures which I have put into an album which I take to all of the Association Reunions and they are received with much interest. Keep up the good work Keith.
    Kindest regards, John.

  55. John Allen. met you today and wish we could have met before. I can imagine you being similar in many ways to your father. He was a great artist and I have always admired people who could pick up the resonance of a person or situation and create a vivid picture for all to understand at least some of the situation depicted.I lived throughout the war and still vividly remember hearing about many of the situations described by the paintings. I also met many 10 pound Poms and still know a few who are left. Take some art classes yourself , you never know you may even have picked up talent from him you didn’t know you had.

    • Hi John,
      What a quick reply, it sure was a pleasure meeting you today and getting to know you and bonus – meeting one of your sons too. Thank you for your kind comments and as I will be retiring in July 2018, I will take your kind advice and ‘try again’ at art. I haven’t read your book yet but it’s on the ‘to do’ list. 2 years ago I found a 1946 Calendar he would have painted mid 1945 in Sydney Library Archives – check this tongue in cheek Christmas painting – all prisoners were searched at the gates of Changi encase they were smuggling food in – even poor Santa was searched:
      Cheers for now,