Monday, 6 April 2015

E is for Exile

George Napier Sprod (1919 - 2003) was my second cousin twice removed on the Cudmore side of my family, one of my grandmother's many second cousins. His grandmother Sara Cudmore was the sister of James Francis Cudmore, my grandmother Kathleen's grandfather.

George Sprod in 1945 from CARTOONS OF LIFE IN PRISON CAMPS. (1945, November 17). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55465755

 George Sprod enlisted in the Australian Army in 1940. He put his age up by one year. His mother was his next of kin. He served as a gunner with the 2/15 Field Regiment.

World war 2 nominal roll entry for George Sprod retrieved from http://www.ww2roll.gov.au/Veteran.aspx?serviceId=A&veteranId=152553
 The 2/15th Field Regiment were in Singapore from mid 1941. They served in Malaya and in January 1942 provided artillery support for the infantry withdrawal along the Malayan Peninsula towards Singapore. In February 1942 the British forces in Singapore surrendered to the Japanese. Members of the 2/15th were imprisoned at Changi. The War Memorial's history records
members of the 2/15th found themselves members of parties bound for the camps along the Thailand-Burma Railway and in Borneo, Japan, French Indochina, Java, Sumatra, and Malaya. These men endured the worst horrors of Japanese captivity. Of the 556 officers and men who became prisoners, 294 died. The surviving prisoners were liberated in late August 1945 and began returning to Australia almost immediately.
As a child George Sprod submitted drawings, stories, and short articles to the Adelaide Mail newspaper. For example,

Fairyland of the Fungi. (1933, July 8). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 2 Supplement: SUNBEAMS. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58623064

Old Ship. (1933, July 22). The Mail (Adelaide, SA : 1912 - 1954), p. 3 Supplement: SUNBEAMS. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article58626325
He went to Sydney to try his luck as a cartoonist , riding his bicycle as far as Hay, New South Wales, a distance of about 400 miles (660 kilometers ). There he sold his bicycle and continued the rest of the way by train. He had various jobs before enlisting in the army.

As a prisoner in Changi Singapore, Sprod met the English cartoonist Ronald Searle (1920-2011). In September 1944 they founded and produced the fortnightly magazine "Exile". There were ten issues. After a few numbers of the Exile Sprod decided that he would like to produce a journal with Australian appeal, which he called"Smoke-Oh" which ran for two issues only.

Illustration by Ronald Searle from the FEPOW (Far East prisoners of war) magazine 'Exile', September 1944. Image retrieved from http://ronaldsearle.blogspot.com.au/2008/02/changi-gaol-2.html

Cover of the second edition of "Smoke-Oh" from February 1945 with three candles representing the three years that they had been held prisoner of war. From Smoke-oh. (1945, November 17). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55465753

One of the cartoons that appeared in Smoke-Oh and was reproduced in the Australian Women's Weekly from CARTOONS OF LIFE IN PRISON CAMPS. (1945, November 17). The Australian Women's Weekly (1933 - 1982), p. 12. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article55465755
 Sprod and Searle also painted murals in a club within the Sime Road camp.

SECRET WIRELESS SET. (1945, October 12). Cairns Post (Qld. : 1909 - 1954), p. 5. Retrieved from http://nla.gov.au/nla.news-article42454880
 When he returned from the war George Sprod and his brothers made a short film called Christmas Crackers, re-enacting the family reunion when George and his brothers and brother-in-law returned from the war. The film is now held by the National Film and Sound Archive.

George Sprod in a screenshot from Christmas Crackers

George also gave an interview to the Australian Women's Weekly and wrote about his experiences for the Sydney Morning Herald, both articles illustrated with some of his cartoons.

After the war George Sprod was a successful cartoonist, eventually working for Punch magazine.

Nearly forty years after his experiences as a prisoner he wrote a memoir which again looked at the humorous side of life as a prisoner, though it did not overlook the misery and cruelty.

Sprod, George (1981). Bamboo round my shoulder : Changi, the lighter side. Kangaroo Press, Kenthurst [N.S.W.] copy held by the State Library of Victoria

George Sprod died in Sydney in 2003.



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