This Japanese issue unbleached calico undershirt belonged to POW NX48180 Private Stanley Herron. It was on display at the POW gallery at the Australian War Memorial Canberra for many years.
The entire body of the shirt and part of the sleeves are covered in indelible pencil signatures and addresses, most of which have been over embroidered in red, blue, green, yellow and mauve stem stitch. Those signatures on the sleeves which have not been embroidered are now illegible. The name of the owner of the shirt has been machine embroidered on the left sleeve in the 1970s, ‘STAN HERRON 2/20 Bn’.
There is a brown and green embroidered cartoon on the back of the shirt with the caption ‘”Who called the cook a b_?” “Who called the b_ a cook!”. The drawing was made by Leon Leon Leleux a very gifted artist.
NX48180 Private Stanley Herron was born in England in 1914, later emigrating to Australia. He enlisted for service in World War 2 in Sydney on 24 September 1941 and served first with 2/19 Battalion. The battalion was posted to Malaya with the 8th Division and Herron later transferred to 2/20 Battalion.
He escaped from Singapore on a Chinese boat shortly before the surrender to the Japanese and reached Java, where he joined an Australian-bound ship. It was bombed by the Japanese and Herron ended up in a lifeboat. After drifting for five days he landed on Java again, escaped to the hills and joined a guerrilla group but was forced to surrender to the Japanese when they threatened to kill local villagers.
He was taken to Singapore and then sent to work on the Burma-Thailand railway. He avoided a double amputation of his feet due to tropical ulcers, after doctors applied maggots to clean them out and eventually returned to Singapore Changi – River Valley Road Camp.
From here he was sent by sea on the Hell Ship Awa Maru to work in the coal mines at Senryu in the mountains of Japan and it was there that he was issued with the calico undershirt. Herron did not wear the shirt but kept it under the floorboards taking it out for fellow prisoners to sign in indelible pencil, after the Japanese surender. The shirt eventually had about 200 names on it, some of them added immediately after his release, before he was repatriated to Australia.
The signatures include those of fellow 8th Division prisoners of war and those of survivors from HMAS Perth and USS Houston who were sunk in Sunda Strait in 1942. The cartoon about the cook refers to Herron’s experience as a cook in the mines.
Herron was evacuated through Nagasaki 5 weeks after the atomic bombing, by US Carrier Chenango to Okinawa, B24 Bomber to Manilla and HMS Formidable to Sydney, was discharged from the army on 3 December 1945.
His wife Betty embroidered over the names after the war when she noticed that the pencilled signatures and addresses were fading. Before she donated the shirt to the Australian War Memorial she realised that her husband, who had died in 1967, has never signed the shirt, so she had his name machine embroidered on the left sleeve.
The names of the following Australians have been identified on the shirt:
After pains taking work by fellow prisoner Neil MacPherson
Corporal Ian James Cameron, 2/29 Battalion
QX14696 W O Class Two John Michael Collins, 2/10 Field Regiment
NX72294 Sapper Robert Davis, 2/12 Field Company
B3093 Able Seaman Charles Arthur Goodchap, HMAS PERTH
QX13325 Gunner Charles Edward Helmhold, 2/10 Field Regiment
NX49013 Sergeant Colville Duffy, 2/20 Battalion
NX26885 Driver Vincent Joseph Augustine Leonard, 2/30 Battalion
VX56830 Private William Douglas Rhook, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
WX7355 Sapper Harry Roy Ribbins, 2/6 RAE
NX25602 Driver James Hynd Richardson, AASC
QX14246 Signalman Robert Francis Rolfe, 8 Corps of Signals
VX47141 Private Harry Victor Rooke, 2/29 Battalion
NX42406 Sapper Thomas Sisson, 2/12 Field Company
NX37543 Lance Sergeant Oswald Victor Skinner, 2/30 Battalion
VX56184 Private Kenneth James Swanson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX24166 Private Kenneth Cicil Tingate, 2/29 Battalion
VX34519 Corporal Richard Lloyd Trewin, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
NX58037 Sergeant Ronald Lawrence Tulloch, Headquarters 8 Division
NX49365 Private Donald Leo Walker, 2/18 Battalion
NX28436 Gunner Kenneth William Wills, 2/15 Battalion
NX33605 Signalman Noel Frederick Adamson, 8 Corps of Signals
NX72557 Private Frederick James Asser, 2/19 INF
NX67807 Sapper Noel Robert Baker, 2/12 Field Company
VX55245 Private Frederick James Barnstable, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX61315 Private George Gregory Beavis, 4 Australian RES MT
NX65921 Corporal Frederick Joseph Bentley, 2/6 Field Company
NX59568 Sapper Stanley Charles Booth, 2/6 Field Company
NX35494 Driver Stanley Brodie Cannon, 2/19 Battalion
S5930 Able Seaman Francis Charles Chattaway, HMAS PERTH
VX47817 Corporal Charles Edward Clark, 2/29 Battalion
NX45053 Private John Arthur Cooper, 2/19 Battalion
22886 Able Seaman Ronald Frederick Crick, HMAS PERTH
NX35317 Private Robert Henry Darling, 2/19 Battalion
QX15584 Gunner Victor Robert James Drane HMAS PERTH
NX35317 Private Robert Henry Darling, 2/19 Battalion
QX15584 Gunner Victor Robert James Draney, 2/10 Field Regiment
NX66461 Sapper Duncan Campbell Ferguson, 2/6 Field Company
VX19538 Corporal William Finch, 2/2 Australian Pioneer Battalion
NX23295 Private Fred Gilbert, 2/18 Battalion
VX56017 Private Richard Gill, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
QX10431 Lance Corporal Robert Leslie Gourley, 2/26 Battalion
NX48180 Private Stanley Heron, 2/20 Battalion
NX54516 Sapper Arthur George Holloman, 2/12 Field Company
NX4734 Driver William Thomas Hudson, 105 General Transport Company
NX29972 Corporal John Robert Israel, 2/18 Battalion
NX26566 Gunner Eric John Jenner, 2/15 Field Regiment
NX69341 Driver William Killian, 2/3 Reserve M T Company
NX30981 Gunner Timothy Bayton Lee, 2/15 Field Regiment
WX16572 Private Neil Ormiston MacPherson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX45047 Corporal Ernest Marson, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
WX13285 Private Jack Maude, 2/4 Machine Gun Battalion
NX71593 Driver James Patrick McCraw, 2/3 MT
VX38580 Gunner Keith Ross McKenzie, 4 Anti Tank Regiment
NX31833 Lance Corporal John Harold McQuire, 2/12 Field Company
NX52577 Private John Stevenson Meek, 2/20 Battalion
VX22505 Private Michael Norton, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
X19734 Corporal William George Nutt, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
NX16288 Sapper Thomas Victor Phillips, 2/6 Field Company
QX12254 Private George Albert Pill, 2/26 Battalion
VX23691 Lance Sergeant William John Reilly, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion
VX8241 Private William Alfred Simpkins, 2/2 Pioneer Battalion.