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Doctor Behind the Wire (Kindle)

The Diaries of POW, Captain Jack Ennis, Singapore, 1942–1945

WWII Prisoners Of War The Fall of Singapore Military

By Jackie Sutherland
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
File Size: 20.1 MB (.mobi)
Illustrations: 35 black and white illustrations
ISBN: 9781399010306
eBook Released: 9th August 2021

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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.

I highly recommend this book. A book to read again and again, every time bringing forth something new.

Ronnie Taylor, FEPOW Family

"An amazing story of courage, love and life-long friendship."

CoFEPoW Quarterly, Issue 94 - July 2021

Read the review here

The Courier.co.uk

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.

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.

NetGalley, Lucy Faulds

A great read, thank you for sharing your Dad's diaries. It's a fascinating insight into life in the prison camp during the war. Well worth purchasing.

Heather McConnell

About Jackie Sutherland

Jack Ennis was born 25 July 1911 in Rawalpindi, Jack (John) Ennis completed medical training in London (St Bartholomew’s and then School for Tropical Diseases) In 1938 he was accepted into the Indian Medical Service . In1939 he was posted to India, and although still a young officer, was diverted to take control of the Far East Pathological Laboratory in Singapore. In 1941, his diaries detail his first meeting with Elizabeth Petrie, a young nurse from Edinburgh, their courtship and then hasty marriage in Singapore, Separately interned by the Japanese, Jack continued his diaries throughout and it is the transcript that is here published.


Reunited after the war, Jack and Elizabeth lived in Durham, eventually moving back to Scotland on Jack’s retiral. Jack died in 2007.


Jackie Sutherland is Jack and Elizabeth’s elder daughter. She inherited her parents’ love of travel and wildlife, combining both in a career of geography and environmental education. Now retired, she and her husband live in Scotland and still enjoy travelling.

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