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‘Weary’ Dunlop’s medical implements

Sir Edward Dunlop (1907–93) was a truly great Australian. His fellow medical students at the University of Melbourne gave him the nickname ‘Weary’, which remained with him throughout his life.

At the outbreak of the Second World War, Dunlop promptly enlisted in the Australian Sixth Division, and served in the Middle East, Greece, Crete and Tobruk. When war came with Japan, his medical unit was sent to Java. When it fell to the Japanese, he became a prisoner of war.

In 1943, Australian prisoners of war under Dunlop’s command were sent to work on the Burma–Thailand Railway, and he remained at this infamous location until the end of the war. In appalling conditions, Dunlop and other doctors worked ceaselessly to save men who were frequently suffering from diseases such as malaria, dysentery and cholera, aggravated by chronic malnourishment and, often, by torture.

Weary Dunlop displayed outstanding courage and capacity for leadership. He opposed attempts by the Japanese to compel sick men to work, and for this he was subjected to severe beatings. He showed extraordinary surgical skill and saved many lives. Twice he came very close to death by execution. He kept a detailed diary, published in 1986, which is a compelling tale of pain and endurance told with singular calm and clarity.

After the war, the importance of a close association with Asia was a continuing theme in Dunlop’s life. He made several visits to Japan, and expressed the hope that ‘some increased understanding should emerge from a tragic conflict in which, when all is said and done, Japanese losses vastly exceeded our own’.

Sir Zelman Cowen

Sphygmomanometer associated with Weary Dunlop
 Sphygmomanometer associated with Weary Dunlop

 Rib Cutter associated with Weary Dunlop

 Cytoscope associated with Weary Dunlop

 Cytoscope associated with Weary Dunlop (detail)
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Dr H. von Recklinghauser sphygmomanometer in bakelite case (c. 1940). Used for measuring blood pressure
Dimensions 7 x 26 x 16 cm
Registration No. MV 44840
Image source: Museum Victoria

© Museum Victoria Australia