I was on my way there one day for the regular head-shaving ritual when one of the guards stopped me and asked in broken English ‘Where you go?’ I told him, and he took hold of my stick, drew me to the side of the path, and said, ‘Sit!’
I had learnt to be pretty wary of these jokers; you never knew when they were going to give you a clip over the ear or stick a bayonet into you; so I sat down and waited.
After a bit he said, ‘No eyes. No hands. Leg not good. How come?’
‘Booby trap, boom, boom,’ I said, and threw my head back and my arms up to illustrate what had happened. This seemed to irritate him, for he shouted at me, ‘Why you not die?’ – as if surviving had somehow been my fault.
‘Very good doctor saved me.’
This seemed to annoy him too. ‘Is Doctor in camp?’ I was beginning to get a little worried by this time. I couldn’t make out what he was getting at. ‘No,’ I said, quite truthfully. He still wasn’t satisfied. ‘What name doctor?’
Uh-uh, I thought, I’m not telling you, mate. ‘Don’t know doctor’s name.’
He seemed to accept this; but then he gave a strange little sort of snort and said, ‘You want die.’ I wasn’t sure if it was a statement or a question, but I said ‘No!’ very emphatically, and shook my head to make it perfectly clear.
There was a short pause, and he said more quietly, ‘No eyes, no hands, you better dead.’ I shook my head again, and he put the muzzle of his rifle against my heart. ‘You better dead.’
Oddly enough, I wasn’t particularly frightened. I was fairly sure he wasn’t going to shoot me there and then; but if not, was it some kind of warning, or his idea of a joke, like the ones who came and tickled my feet, or threw leaves and twigs and things into my face while I was walking about the camp?
I said nothing, just waited, and then, to my astonishment, he moved the gun away from my chest and said, ‘Now, hair cut!’ I must admit it had gone clean out of my mind, and I’d have thought out of his.
’What name doctor?’
This was Colonel E.E. ‘Weary’ Dunlop of the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps.
He operated on Griffith’s badly injured body, encouraged him to continue to live his life, and protected him from the swift solution offered by the Japanese.