By Sears Eldredge
It is about this time that there is an increase in the mention of hunger in POW diaries and memoirs.[i] Wilkinson compared their rice allotment to what they received Up Country: “We get less rice than we had up country consequently we get less bulk and are always hungry and ready for the next meal. It has become increasingly difficult to buy extras for augmenting our meals.”[ii] Obviously, the Japanese supply chain was being severely disrupted by American submarines.
Playbill for March ’44. On 1 March, All At Sea: A Nautical Farce written by Slim De Grey and produced by Keith Stevens, with music by Bill Middleton, and setting by Bert West, opened in the A.I.F. Theatre. The Little Theatre put on Stardust: A Musical Revue 1900-1944 devised and produced by Ken Morrison. March 4th saw the play, Love On The Dole, produced by G. Kenneth Dowbiggin and Martin R. English, open at the Phoenix Theatre in Hanky Park. At the end of the month, the A.I.F. Concert Party performed their Second Anniversary Show.
All At Sea
When the Japanese authorities saw All At Sea, they promptly announced they were going to film it for viewing elsewhere (propaganda purposes), which they did on 6-8 March. As Stewart reports, “A compulsory parade was made to the A.I.F. Theatre, where scenes from the current “All At Sea” were [reenacted] by the cast, photographs taken.[iii]
Love On The Dole
Walter Greenwood and Ronald Gow’s gritty three-act drama takes place in Hanky Park, a slum neighborhood of Salford (in Greater Manchester) during the Great Depression and has a strong socialist message—an unusually serious play for POW audiences. Charles Dolman, playing the lead role of the daughter, Sally Hardcastle, who becomes a prostitute in order to help her family survive, was given star billing as his name is above the title on the program cover. Familiar names among the largely unknown cast were Graham Sauvage and Desmond Bettany.
Australian O.R. Stan Arneil thought it “a rather sordid play magnificently acted by a group of English players.”[iv] But he was so taken with the show, he saw it a second time five days later. And then decided, “but I had best not see it any more. I dreamt about it all last night and woke up with a boomer cold (almost my first in the tropics).[v]
 This must have been while Wilkinson and others were recuperating in Kanburi Hospital Camp Up Country where the Japanese wanted to fatten them up before they were sent back to Singapore.
 This is the last entry in Val Mack’s list of their shows in his exercise log books.
 As far as is known, no propaganda film of this show has ever been found.
 Based on Greenwood’s documentary novel of the same name.
 That the play takes place in Hanky Park, England, and the POWs were in Hanky Park, Singapore, may have carried some significance.
 Besides its metaphoric significance, the family’s name, “Hardcastle,” must be a reference to the family in Oliver Goldsmith’s famous 18th cent. play, She Stoops to Conquer, in which the daughter, too, saves the family.
[i] Thomas, Fax. 31 March 01, 9.
[ii] Wilkinson, Diary. 5 Feb. ’44.
[iii] Stewart, Leonard. extracts from A.I.F. ROs, Changi ’44. AWM PR01013.
[iv] Arneil, 10 March, ’44.
[v] Arneil, 15 March, ’44.