Captain Kenneth Parsons, 2/3rd Motor Ambulance Convoy, removed this Union Flag from the Sultan of Johore’s palace in late January 1942 to prevent it from falling into Japanese hands. After Singapore’s surrender on 15 February 1942, Parsons and other Australian medical officers concealed the flag for the entire three and half years of their imprisonment at Selarang Barracks, Changi.
The flag became a symbol of stoic determination and was employed in many ceremonies, particularly burials. Between 1942 and 1945 over 100 men signed the flag. 91 were Australians: 33 Victorians, 36 New South Welshmen, 16 Queenslanders and 2 Western Australians. The remaining signatures belonged to members of the liberating force, or to foreign patients of Australian medical units. 16 Australian servicemen signed the flag prior to their departure for the Burma–Thailand Railway in 1943. These men would not see Changi – or Australia – again.
Reviewed 28 October 2021