The Adam Park Project

Virtual Museum

Pte Robert Mitchell's Sketches

Item Information:

Catalogue Number: Mitchell Collection 1 Source: Custodians and Family of the Robert Mitchell Collection Location: Adam Park Report No: Not Applicable Artifact Type: Document Production Date: 2016-01-10 00:00:00 Dimensions of Item: Various Copyright with Source Institution

Other Description:

Six sketches of the architecture and incidents associated with the Adam Park POW camp drawn by Pte Robert Mitchell AIF

Historic Context:

Pte Robert Mitchel was a member of the 8 Division Signals who was captured in Singapore. He spent the few weeks of captivity in Changi making the most of the Changi University courses and learning technical drawing. He took his sketch pad and drawing material with him when he was posted to Adam Park and spent his spare time sketching some of the architecture of the camp. Robert hid his sketch pad at the bottom of his knapsack and manged to take the pad all through his remaining captivity in Japan and on returning to Australia continued to forge out a very creative career as an artist. Roberts other work can be seen at

The Adam Park Chapel Robert painted eight images during his time at Adam Park. Notably this includes an image of a semi destroyed black and white Class 1 house which he has entitled 'The Chapel and Canteen at Adam Park POW Camp'. This was the first and most important piece of evidence in the search for the Adam Park Chapel. After many years of research, survey and investigations the house was identified as No.11 Adam Park

No.12 Adam Park This image in black and white shows a class 3 house on the Adam Park Estate. The title suggests this is house No. 12 however the house depicted is No.7 Adam Park. The subtext states that this house was used as accommodation for the POWs. A modern image of No.7 has been added to allow for comparison.

The Tivoli Theatre Robert helped with the construction of the Tivoli Theatre in the remains of a garage at the entrance of the camp. He painted the back drops and the wing art. Notably he states in his notes that he excluded the semi naked dancing girls on the gagrage doors as he thought that his mother would one day see the sketches. A second image of the Tivoli has been added for comparison. The garage is the only building to have been knocked down since the end of the war. A photograph of the location of the garage has been added.

The Memorial Garden The memorial garden was built by the POWs for ANZAC Day in 1942. It was reportedly constructed in the garden outside the Chapel House at No.11 Adam Park. The wreaths were created using flowers in the colours of the identification patch of each ANZAC unit held in the park. The Shinto Shrine Remarkably Pte Mitchell was allowed to take his sketch pad up to the Shinto Shrine after the majority of the work had been completed. His sketch shows the granite water trough, the three temple buildings and the staircases and torriis that connected the site on the top of the hill. A modern photograph taken at the same spot has been added for comparison

The Chapel Murals Mitchell not only drew the Chapel building but he also went up into the Chapel and drew the murals. Capt Andrews created the murals using the yellow clay for the wall tinting, and Recketts Blue Toilet Cleaner for the blue scroll. The image in the centre of the stain glass window is of Mary Magdelene rolling back the rock outside Jesus's tomb. Andrews mentions in his memoirs that he was not good at drawing faces so he cut out a picture of Dorothy Lamour's face and pasted this on the window before painting a suitable headdress around it. The TAPP researchers were able to identify the room that housed the chapel by the configuration of the windows and ventilation blocks. A picture of the room today has been added as well as a second sketch of the chapel by Lt Col Withers Payne.

The Japanese HQ This sketch is entitled as a view of the Japanese HQ at Adam Park. However no such house is found on Adam Park. The Japanese Guard room was thought to be at No.8 Adam Park. However it is possible that this house was in the vicinity of Adam Park and used by Japanese officers. Mitchell has added a subtext suggesting this house was used as the HQ for the Japanese Airlines after the war. The location of this house is still to be determined.

The Shower Incident A sketch of the incident when the 'Curry Puff' trader was directed into the shower block under the pretense that the occupant was interested in buying some produce. This was a well reported incident at the camp. It must be noted that the sketch shows that the bathing arrangements on camp were fairly sophisticated.

We thank BHFineart and Robert's family for allowing us to display these images in the Virtual Museum

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