Mitchell on An­zac stu­dent tour

Southern Gazette (South Perth) - - NEWS - Com­mu­ni­tynews .com.au Aaron Cor­lett

EX­TEN­SIVE re­search into a pris­oner of war has helped Wes­ley Col­lege stu­dent Mitchell Mur­ray land a place on the Pre­mier’s An­zac Stu­dent Tour to Sin­ga­pore next year.

Af­ter see­ing the com­pe­ti­tion ad­ver­tised at the school, Mitchell wrote an es­say about World War II pris­oner of war Jim ‘Ringer’ Ed­wards and even went to the trou­ble of talk­ing to Mr Ed­wards’ rel­a­tives.

Ten WA stu­dents will go on the tour, which marks the 75th an­niver­sary of the Fall of Sin­ga­pore.

“The theme for the com­pe­ti­tion was how Aus­tralia’s in­volve­ment in World War II has helped shape re­la­tions and it re­quired me to write an es­say and then I was cho­sen for an in­ter­view,” he said.

“My es­say fo­cused on James ‘Ringer’ Ed­wards, who worked on the Thai-Burma Rail­way, and I found it an en­gag­ing process.

“I re­searched on­line, used the li­brary at school and I had a phone in­ter­view with his grand­daugh­ter, who was able to point me in the direc­tion of re­sources. Jim was known for the re­sis­tance he showed when he was a pris­oner of war.”

Mitchell said he was very ex­cited to be go­ing to Sin­ga­pore.

“It will be an im­por­tant day of re­mem­brance and we will visit places that were bat­tle­fields and pris­oner of war camps,” he said.

“I think it will be an im­mer­sive ex­pe­ri­ence and it will give me a chance to prac­tice the Man­darin that I learnt at Wes­ley Col­lege.”

Pre­mier Colin Bar­nett said the tour would be a life-changing ex­pe­ri­ence for the stu­dents.

“The 1942 sur­ren­der of the Al­lied forces in Sin­ga­pore was con­sid­ered one of the worst de­feats in World War II his­tory,” he said.

“Stu­dents will take their learn­ing be­yond the class­room to tour his­toric sites and gain in­sight into Aus­tralia’s in­volve­ment in the re­gion dur­ing the war.” JIM ‘Ringer’ Ed­wards was the ba­sis for the char­ac­ter Joe Har­man in the novel A Town Like Alice, which was turned into a film and minis­eries.

He was born in Fre­man­tle in 1913 and joined the 2/26th Bat­tal­ion, which saw ac­tive ser­vice in the de­fence of Malaya and Sin­ga­pore in 1941-42.

Dur­ing a fight­ing with­drawal against the Ja­panese, those who were not killed were taken pris­oner at the sur­ren­der of Sin­ga­pore.

The pris­on­ers of war spent the next three-and-a-half years in de­plorable con­di­tions and Ed­wards was among the pris­on­ers who worked on the Thai-Burma Rail­way.

Af­ter an es­cape at­tempt, he was pun­ished by be­ing tied up to a tree with wire and beaten with a base­ball bat.

Af­ter 60 hours, he was con­sid­ered fin­ished and was al­lowed to be cut down by his mates who even­tu­ally nursed him back to health. Two other men who were pun­ished at the same time in a sim­i­lar way did not sur­vive.

Af­ter the war, he re­turned to Gin­gin. He died in 2000.

Mitchell Mur­ray.

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