acquired in Singapore and used by Ernest 'Ernie' J Banks, a member of
the AIF Changi Concert Party. He also played the banjo. A replacement
neck for the instrument was made by Keith Fanning, a POW with expertise
in making prosthetic limbs from aluminium fan blades. It was so accurate
that it gave the saxophone a true tone despite the fact that the only
mouthpiece available came from a clarinet.
|Entertainment too had its
place in the life of Changi. The Australians in Selarang raised a
Concert Party of almost professional standard, and it became such a
booster of morale that for a long time its members were kept back
whenever the Japanese called for more workers.
|One of its comedians, Harry Smith, had
a catch phrase, 'You'll never get off the Island'
which became almost the watchword of the prisoners throughout the
While the Australians
concentrated on variety shows, the British using the old RA
cinema, known as the 'Playhouse', put on straight plays in the
main, achieving likewise a very high quality.
items below are recordings of former POWs originally for a radio
program and more recently for the ABC
drama series, CHANGI. Click on your choice to hear the
recordings played on Windows Media Player.
A former member talks about the first night of the Changi Concert
Party in February 1942. Sings "Castles in the Air",
recorded at a POW reunion at Sydney’s Victoria Barracks in 1981.
A Morrison upright now sits in the ex-POW Association rooms in
Sydney. A member of the concert party talks about finding the
piano in Singapore and hauling it back to the camp through the
wire. The piano is played by Jack Boardman, a former Changi POW.
You Get That?’
A drum kit was smuggled in the prison, while a sewing machine was
also brought in and this was used to make costumes for the Changi
Concert Party. The POW’s also ingeniously made their own
instruments, and a range of skills were used to make the sets and
Much of the music was written by the prisoners and the
"popular" song of the week was posted on a tree, a
favourite was "Waiting for Something to Happen".
Former POW, Keith Stevens, talks about one of his appearances in
the Concert Party. There is also an extract of a reading from
"Changi Diary" about the food in the camp.
Selarang Barracks Incident’
A reading from "the Changi Diary".
Radio Helicon, "Changi Concert Party", originally
broadcast Monday, October 17, 1983. Produced by Margaret Evans.
Features eight of the original concert party artists Keith
Stevens, Berry Arthur, Jack Boardman, Slim de Grey, Fred
Brightfield, Ray Tullipan, Fred Stringer and Syd Piddington. The
music was recorded at a POW reunion at Victoria Barracks in Sydney
in 1981 and from a concert recorded at Legacy House in Sydney on
July 28, 1983.
of the Japanese interpreters was most helpful in providing stage
properties; gowns, make-up and so on, and some of the Japanese
guards were regularly to be found in the audience.
their .303 British rifles against the walls of the theatre, they
would sit down and listen: then they would stand to attention
while 'The King' was played.
On the first night they
attended, they were so taken in by the excellence of the make-up
of the 'girls' that as soon as the performance was over they all
dashed around to the stage door to meet them!
Variety Entertainment Competitions
P.O.W. Camp Changi 1942
Conducted under the auspices of the