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Tribute to the late Sir Edward `Weary' Dunlop

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: Many thousands of people this morning lined the streets of Melbourne to say a last farewell to the war hero and humanitarian Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop. Political and military leaders, members of the medical profession and old soldiers gathered at St Pauls Cathedral and along streets leading to the Shrine of Remembrance in one of the largest funerals seen in Melbourne.

This report from Agnes Warren on the State funeral of Sir Edward, the world renowned medical researcher and surgeon who saved the lives of hundred of prisoners of war held by the Japanese.

UNIDENTIFIED: I knew him very well, yes, and not only for what he's done but what he represents. If ever there was a saint, he's a saint - in my book, anyway.

UNIDENTIFIED: I was thinking this morning you can only feel that he was the real meaning of a knight, what we virtually expect of a knight, and I can only say: Well done, Sir Knight.

UNIDENTIFIED: I'm an ex-Army nurse and he was such, you know he was really a person and so I wanted to come and see the end, see him off.

AGNES WARREN: Former prisoners of war were given VIP treatment at the State funeral for Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop. At the wish of his family they occupied the front two pews of St Pauls Cathedral to farewell the humanitarian and war hero who died earlier this month at the age of 85. Mourners included Federal and State politicians, past and present Governors and Governors-General, military and church leaders. Former Governor-General Sir Ninian Stephen in the eulogy spoke of the tall, raw-boned shy 'Weary' Dunlop he knew.

SIR NINIAN: Through sheer strength of character and of purpose and strength of body too, he survived torture and vile treatment to continue his care for his men, caring for their disease-wrecked bodies, inspiring them with hope when hope was faint and with human dignity and self-respect when all outward dignity seemed gone and respect for self was sought to be starved and beaten out of them.

AGNES WARREN: Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop joined the Australian Army in 1939 as a war surgeon and in 1942 became one of the 22,000 captured by the Japanese during World War II. Seven and a half thousand of these men didn't come home. Sir Edward spent three years as a prisoner of war in Java, Changi Prison and camps along the infamous Thailan- Burma Railway. He became known as the Christ of the Burma Road for the lives he saved among those forced to build the 400 kilometre railway line from Thailand to north-west Burma.

In his war diaries, Sir Edward recalled using banana leaves for bandages, table legs, trees and webbing were fashioned into limbs for amputees; even artificial eyes were made from mahjong pieces. After the war, 'Weary' Dunlop continued saving lives as a consultant surgeon. He became President of the International Society of Surgeons and a Founding Fellow of the Medical Academy. In 1969 he led the Australian surgical team in South Vietnam, caring for injured civilians. He was knighted and named Australian of the Year in 1977 and awarded the Order of Australia in 1987.

Brigadier Alf Garland of the RSL called on Australians to carry on Weary's work.

ALF GARLAND: As brother follows brother into the great beyond, we who are left will close our ranks and carry on our tradition of unselfish service to the disabled, the bereaved and to Australia in the highest ideals of citizenship.

They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old; age shall not weary them nor the years condemn; at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them. Lest we forget.

RICHARD PALFREYMAN: And that report on the State funeral of Sir Edward Dunlop from Agnes Warren in Melbourne.