Doctor Behind the Wire (Hardback)
The Diaries of POW, Captain Jack Ennis, Singapore, 1942–1945
Although other books have featured Jack and Elizabeth Ennis, this is the first complete account of their story – from meeting in up-country Malaya (the rain forest, the orchids) – to their marriage in Singapore just days before it fell to the Japanese, and then through the long separation of internment.
Published here for the first time, Jack’s diaries record the daily struggles against disease, injuries and malnutrition and also the support and camaraderie of friends. enjoyment of concerts, lectures, and sports, Ever observant, he records details of wildlife.
The inspiration for the ‘Changi Quilts’, the story of the Girl Guide quilt (now in the Imperial War Museum) is told in words by Elizabeth, written after the war.
Elizabeth’s former employer, Robert Heatlie Scott, distinguished Far East diplomat, was also POW in Changi, much of the time in solitary confinement or under interrogation by the Japanese.
The individual experiences of these three persons are dramatic enough – together they combine in an amazing story of courage, love and life-long friendship.
Collated by his eldest daughter, this is the transcribed diaries of Jack Ennis who was a doctor working for the Indian Medical Service (IMS) - a military medical service in British India - who was stationed in Singapore when the Japanese invaded in 1942. Jack had married Elizabeth Petrie just four days before both became prisoners of war - Elizabeth was at the notorious Changi gaol, whist Jack was at a number of bases nearby.NetGalley, Lucy Faulds
Jack Ennis kept a diary during his period of incarceration, written in tiny spidery writing initially in notebooks then on whatever paper he could find, writing in at least 3 directions to conserve the very scarce commodity!
As a medic, Jack was quite lucky in that he was able to move fairly freely within the camp. He was very diligent about monitoring his own health, recording his weight/blood pressure etc at regular intervals, and doing various test on patients, but as a pathologist he was also performing autopsies to determine why people died. His notes formed a significant contribution to future understanding of tropical diseases and the impact of diet/conditions on POWs
His diaries start with moaning about the food (rice again!) but quickly he becomes obsessed by lack of communication from Elizabeth, who is incarcerated very close by - however he didn't understand how scarce paper was at the Changi gaol, or how Elizabeth was handling her own situation. It is interesting that Jack records not only details of the patients & the medics he worked alongside, but also details of the wildlife from the snakes he popped in the bathtub to the bats that flew overhead.
Later in the book we get some of Elizabeth's views, though she never committed her experience to paper. Elizabeth played a significant part in the life of the Changi gaol, particularly for the children as she formed a Girl Guide company and was the inspiration for the Girl Guide quilt (now in the Imperial War Museum)
Overall this was an interesting and personal insight into one man's experience of being a POW in Singapore. Others have written about life in Changi, but a first hand account in such detail is unusual.