Across the curator's desk: Alexander Moon P.O.W. papers

Alexander Moon Papers 1942-1972

Arthur Alexander Moon papers, including field message book and records relating to Tha Makhan (Tamakan) P.O.W. camp and hospital, 1942-1972, MLMSS 4234

What is it? 

Arthur Alexander Moon papers, including field message book and records relating to Tha Makhan (Tamakan) P.O.W. camp and hospital, 1942-1972, MLMSS 4234 

Why is it important? 

Before World War II Arthur Moon established a medical practice in Macquarie Street, Sydney as an obstetrician and gynaecologist. He enlisted in the Australian Imperial Forces on 24 April 1940 and served in the Middle East as a member of 2/4 Field Ambulance.  In 1942 Moon sailed from Suez along with Colonel "Weary" Dunlop and others, and eventually landed in Java.  

After the fall of Java the Australians became Prisoners of War and in 1943 Moon was moved to Thailand with about 900 other POWs to build a bridge over the Mae Klong River. An event later made famous in the movie, 'The Bridge Over The River Kwai'. Moon worked as a Senior Medical officer at Tha Makhan and Tamuang P.O.W. camps. In 1945, he buried POW records and statistics in a tin at Tamuangand and after the Japanese surrender returned and dug up the tin.  

The records which Moon recovered included diagrams of the burial sites of soldiers at the P.O.W. camp and the names of those buried there. There is also a very frayed list of names of people who he treated, along with their rank, address and the illness they arrived with. I was even more surprised to find among the names of those listed a soldier who lived in the same house in Sydney I now live in!  

After the war Moon returned to concentrate on obstetrics in Sydney. He died on 28 October 1973, aged seventy-one. 

Why is it on your desk? 

I found this while researching a  timeline about the history of the Library for the State Library Magazine. While looking at significant items acquired in the 1960s I came across a reference to Moon's collection. Unfortunately there wasn't space to include it in the final draft for publication but it is set aside as a possible future blog post.  

How did it get here? 

These documents were first presented by Mrs Christine MacDonald to Hornsby Library, and later transferred by Diana Smith, to the State Library of NSW in March 1984. 

 

Geoff Barker, Senior Curator, Research & Discovery 

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