account of the Changi prison camp would be complete without some
reference to the ‘University’. Despite the apathy which was all too
apparent among many of the men, the RAEC staff were soon appealing for
potential lecturers and instructors, and a wealth of talent was
unearthed, ranging from officers who possessed some sort of professional
qualifications to almost the entire staff of Raffles College, Singapore,
who had been mobilized as volunteers and now found themselves behind the
Inevitably educational materials were
scarce, but several libraries were found more or less intact, and
chairs, tables and even blackboards were discovered. From March to
August 1942 the educational programme expanded until several thousand
men were taking part. Lectures were given on every conceivable topic and
class tuition was provided in a series of faculties, including General
Education, Business Training, Languages, Engineering, Science,
Agriculture, Law and Medicine. Southern Area College (in Kitchener
Barracks) provided tuition approaching university level, while 18th
Division College provided instruction up to matriculation standard.
Unfortunately, hardly had the educational work got fully under way than
the teaching staffs began to be depleted by the departure of working
parties and by November the 'university' had contracted into an
Education Centre, which provided a library and a limited range of
From Changi History
Another recollection from a POW
colonel [Colonel 'Black Jack Galleghan] came up with another
winner; to prevent disaffection and thoughts of escape, as he put
it to the Japanese commandant, books were the answer, and
furthermore he knew where to put his hands on some.
convoy of lorries descended on Changi and the entire contents of
the Singapore Library were shovelled in.
And what books! Choice items that had
been banned in Australia for years. Australia in those days was running
neck and neck with Ireland for book-banning championship of the world…
The more serious volumes were also avidly seized upon, and soon the camp
was full of people studying law, medicine, astronomy, thermodynamics and
all kinds of professions they envisaged taking up when the blessed day
of freedom dawned.
George Sprod - Bamboo
Round My Shoulders
Some 20,000 volumes arrived at the
camp from libraries in Singapore. The University of Changi was born.
Classes were set up in Agriculture, general education, languages, law,
engineering, medicine and science. Anyone who could, offered to share
their knowledge with others.
400 men learnt to read and write while
prisoners of war in Changi. Many of the subjects had practical
applications, but others were just for interest. Study became a way of
escaping the drudgery of camp life. Art
of all kinds flourished in Changi. There was a literary society, a
choir, and lots of cartooning and painting. But perhaps the biggest
single group was the Changi concert party.