The people of The Royal Melbourne
Dunlop was born in Major’s Plains, Victoria in 1907 and grew up in Benalla. After a brilliant academic and sporting career, he qualified as a pharmacist in 1928, as a doctor in 1934, and represented Australia in rugby in 1932. It was at medical school at the University of Melbourne that he acquired the nickname “Weary”, after Dunlop tyres. He spent two years as a Resident Medical Officer at the Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1935-36, and a further year as a Resident at the Royal Children’s Hospital in 1937. In 1938 he went to England for post-graduate studies at St Bartholomew's Hospital and, at the outbreak of World War II, he became a specialist surgeon to the Emergency Medical Services at St Mary's Hospital.
In 1939, he enlisted in the Australian Army Medical Corps, and in 1940 was posted to Palestine. After service in Greece, Crete and at Tobruk with the 2/2 Australian Casualty Clearing Station, he was transferred to Java in February 1942 to command the No. 1 Allied General Hospital. When Java fell to the Japanese, he became a prisoner-of-war between 1942-45 on the Burma-Thailand Railway and in Changi prison. It was during this period, and because of his care for the soldiers under his command and his defiance of his captors in the face of brutality, starvation and death, that his reputation as a national icon was forged. That regard was further strengthened after the war, by his advocacy for better conditions for the health and welfare of former prisoners-of-war. He was a leader in the Australian community, and an advocate for improving the country's relationship with South-East Asia. During the Vietnam War he led a civilian surgical team working with injured civilians in South Vietnam.
Dunlop was appointed an Honorary Surgeon to The Royal Melbourne Hospital in 1946, a position he held until his retirement in 1967. Other appointments included Honorary Surgeon to the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital, Consultant Surgeon to the Peter MacCallum Cancer Institute, and Specialist Surgeon to the Repatriation Department. Dunlop performed a variety of surgical work but developed a particular interest in gastro-oesophageal surgery and cancer. His medical interest extended to community health matters such as alcoholism, drug dependence, fluoridation and the treatment of cancer. In addition, he was involved in the training of Asian medical personnel and undertook surgical work in Thailand, Sri Lanka and India through the Colombo Plan. Sir Edward 'Weary' Dunlop died in 1993. He was given a state funeral with full military honours. An estimated 10,000 people lined the streets of Melbourne to watch the funeral procession.
Sources: Alan Gregory: The Ever Open Door: A History of the Royal Melbourne Hospital, Hyland House, 1998; Medical Research Foundation: Sir Edward Dunlop, http://www.siredwaredunlop.com.au/bio.htm, sighted 12 May 2005; Australian War Memorial: Sir (Ernest) Edward Dunlop, http://www/awm.gov.au/research/encyclopedia/d/dunlop_biog.htm, sighted 28 June 2001.