EXTENSIVE research into a prisoner of war has helped Wesley College student Mitchell Murray land a spot on the Premier’s Anzac Student Tour to Singapore next year.
After seeing the competition advertised around 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 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 to be 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 his hardships and the resistance he showed when he was a prisoner of war.”
Mitchell said he was very excited to go to Singapore and told everyone he knew once he had found out.
“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 learned 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.”
Who was Jim ‘Ringer’ Edwards?
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 crucified 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 crucified at the same time did not survive.
Following the war, he returned to Gingin. He died in 2000.