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Category: Changi

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Saxophone 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 captivity. 

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. 

The 6 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.

‘Opening Night’
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.

 ‘The Piano’
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.

‘Were’d 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 paint backdrops.

‘Changi Hit Parade’
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".

‘A Female Impersonator’
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.

‘The Selarang Barracks Incident’
A reading from "the Changi Diary".

Source: 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.
One 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. 

Having propped 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!


AIF Malaya

Variety Entertainment Competitions

P.O.W. Camp Changi 1942

Conducted under the auspices of the Australian




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Digger History:  an unofficial history of the Australian & New Zealand Armed Forces