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Death of Sir Edward `Weary' Dunlop.

PETER THOMPSON: A great Australian, Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop, has died at the age of 85. Sir Edward led Australian prisoners who were captured by the Japanese after the fall of Singapore, and his bravery in the face of adversity created hero status for him. Many Australian POWs say they owe their lives to Weary. The former Federal Minister Tom Uren served under Weary Dunlop as a prisoner, from Australia Day 1943 until July 1944. This morning Tom Uren told Stephen McDonald about his friend, who will be sorely missed.

TOM UREN: Well, one feels very sad, extremely sad, and I know that most of our POWs of the Japanese will all feel the same way - a real loss, because Weary was a part of us. He was a very special human being, not only was he a great doctor but he really was a great leader, a very, very special leader.

STEPHEN McDONALD: What sort of qualities was he able to bring to leadership?

TOM UREN: Well, Weary was a person that led in a kind of quiet way, but by example. What he did under the leadership of the prison camp, particularly the Hintock Mountain camp where we were - medical orderlies got paid under the so-called .. there was a sham under the Geneva Convention, and they put their money into a pool and the officers did likewise, and then those that went out to work got a small wage and they put the greater proportion of their money into a central pool. And we worked by a survival of the strong looking after the weak, and the young looking after the old, and the fit looking after the sick, and we collectivised our money. It was that great leadership; it had so much of an influence on my life. And I've said it so often before, Weary was an inspiration to my life personally.

STEPHEN McDONALD: And how did he keep morale so high in such a desperate situation?

TOM UREN: It was gut and determination. He fought for everybody's life.

STEPHEN McDONALD: Can you just explain something of the way in which you were able to serve under him?

TOM UREN: Well, you see, the Japanese were really .. particularly the engineers that we had to work under, were really brutal, and they, of course, had to get their area of railway line done and they drove people out to work that were really very, very sick indeed. And consequently, he would argue with them the whole time that this man couldn't go out because it was impossible, because of certain sicknesses, and he'd always stand between his men and the Japanese. And if you look at Weary's wartime diaries, you'll find that the people who served under him, served at a greater rate and survived at a greater rate than any other group than on the whole of railway line. It was because, again, of this way with all this collective money, he'd deal with the black market and try to buy drugs to help the very sick. But that was Weary's greatness, but he never stopped being great. I mean, even after the war, he kind of, in a quiet way, he built these bridges of friendship with the Japanese, with the Thais, with the Malays.

STEPHEN McDONALD: So, he bore no grudge with Asia, even after this terrible experience?

TOM UREN: He didn't. He lives by that, you know, there's no progress in hate and, no, Weary was a builder. He was looking to the future, not to the past.

STEPHEN McDONALD: Tom, do you remember the first time you met Weary?

TOM UREN: Yes, I do. I walked into a camp on the Burma-Thailand railway, Konyu camp on 26 January, Australia Day, 1943, and it was just an open patch of land about twice the size of a football field, and I stayed with him until about June-July 1944. I was under his leadership for about a year and half on the Burma-Thailand railway.

STEPHEN McDONALD: And how would you like to see him remembered?

TOM UREN: He'll be remembered in the hearts and minds of people because the interesting thing is that the conservative governments knighted him, but it was the Labor Government under Bob Hawke, the Hawke Government, that made him a Companion of Australia. So, he's in the hearts and minds and he'll be immortalised in the history of Australia, one of the really very special people.

PETER THOMPSON: Tom Uren, the former Labor Minister on his friend, Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop.