MS 8756
Papers of John Noel Douglas Harrison (1911-1980)

Scope and Content Note

  • Papers
  • 1942-1958
  • 1.54m (11 boxes) + 1 folio box
  • Available for reference

The papers were donated to the Library in 1994.

The collection comprises diaries and notebooks kept in Changi Prison in Singapore, correspondence, personal notebooks, desk diaries, Federation of Malaya Police publications, photographs and Harrison's autobiography. An oil portrait and watercolours are located in Pictorial.

Biographical Note

John Noel Douglas Harrison spent 25 years in Malaya and China, surviving several years in Changi prison camp and a murder attempt by bandits, before settling in Tasmania in 1958.

Harrison was born in 1911. He left England at the age of 22 to take up an appointment as probationary Assistant Commissioner in the Malaya Police Service. In 1933 he was sent to China to study Cantonese for two years, and he was later to teach this language to fellow prisoners in Changi. He was a POW in Changi in 1942 and 1943 before being moved to Sime Road in May 1944 until his release in 1945. While imprisoned he used his talent for drawing, his sketches and paintings depicting many aspects of prison life. He was later to exhibit in the Royal Academy and the Paris Salon.

In 1948, at the beginning of the Malayan Emergency, Harrison was appointed Superintending Officer of Police at Tapah, one of the areas worst affected by Communist terrorism. Two months after his appointment as CPO, Negri Sembilan, in May 1949, he was ambushed at Durian Tipus and lost part of his right hand. For a year from April 1952 he was in charge of retraining all police officers and men, and then served two years as CPO, Perak. His final posting before retirement was to Alor Star, Kedah/Perlis in 1955 as Chief Police Officer. John Harrison died in October 1980.

Series Description

Series 1 - Changi POW camp, Singapore

Pieces 1-3
Diaries (2 volumes), 1942-45
The first diary was commenced in February 1942 in cell 22 D 111 Changi Convict Prison, Singapore. For safety it was sealed and buried in the prison garden in early 1943 and disinterred on Liberation in 1945. The second diary was commenced in September 1945, a month after release. The diaries were later edited, and sketches, paintings, photographs and newspaper clippings added.
An overview of life in Changi, commenced in July 1961.

Pieces 4-9
Changi Cantonese instruction notebooks, 1942-45
Harrison was a prisoner from February 1942-May 1944 in Changi and then in Sime Road till August 1945. Prisoners organised classes amongst themselves and John Harrison taught Cantonese. These volumes, bound in Changi, were mainly written out in connection with his teaching.
(i) Chinese characters grouped under radicals - very detailed with some unusual radicals. Notes on Chinese account books.
(ii) Radicals of Chinese characters
(iii) Hokkien. Province of China dialect notes. Lists of trades, measurements, amusements etc.
(iv) Verse and prose (French and English), lists of identity disks by Nationality, names and addresses of people in England and Australia.
(v) A book of verse for boys and girls compiled by J.C. Smith.
(vi) Pink 'Jotter book'-used after volume 1 of the diary was finished.

Series 2 - Correspondence, personal notebooks, diaries

Piece 10
Autobiography ('Autobiography of J.N.D.Harrison, ex Colonial Service. Title not decided') (1 folder)

Piece 11
Correspondence, 1947-72 (1 folder)
Names include: H.B. Langworthy, I.W. Blellock, Brigadier I.C. Harris, P. Townsend, Wan Ibrahim bin Wan Soloh, C.J. Brodie, Mohd Salleh B Ismael, Abdul Ranee Bin Yuncos, Che Wan, J. Chadwick, Leong Yew Koh, Tunku Ismail bin Tunku Yahaya, A.W. Morgan, D.C. MacGillivray, W.LW. Carbonnel, E.V. Peers, N. Gray, J. Nicholls, J. Mead, D. MacIntosh, and C.W.D. Hall. Letters to the editor of Malaysia and correspondence on War of the Running Dog by Noel Barber, 1972 (10 years war). Letter to The Bulletin-Malaysia on new Communist pressures, 1969.
Subjects include: transfer within Colonial Police Service outside Malaya; offer of post at Hong Kong; dinner by Chinese community, Alor Star, and letter of thanks from Chinese Community; appreciation success of Baling talks; retirement, conferring of the Kedah Commemoration Medal, the Kedah Distinguished Service Star and the Perak Meritorious Service medal. Letters to the editor of Malaysia.

Piece 12
Personal notebooks (1 folder)
23 May 1946-13 Dec. 1946; 14 June 1946-31 Aug. 1946; 24 April 1947-15 Nov. 1947; 12 July 1948-Dec. 1948(Routine); 11 July 1948-1 Sept. 1948(Information book); Feb. 1950-9 July 1952.

Piece 13
Certificates, awards, agreements(retirement), citizenship registration(copy), Lodge, etc.(1 folder)

Piece 14
1946, 1951, 1958

Pieces 15-20
Desk diaries 1947-1952 (1 box)

Pieces 21-24
Desk diaries 1953-1955 (1 box)

Pieces 25-27
Desk diaries 1956-1958 (1 box)

Series 3 - Federation of Malaya Police - Printed material

Piece 28
The Federation of Malaya and its police, 1786-1952
Police handbook
Commissioner's standing orders
Police ordinance with rules
Organisation of a police district
Organisation of a police contingent
Organisation of a special constabulary
Training programme
Peraturan Pekerjaan police
Annual sports
(1 box)

Piece 29
The conduct of anti-terrorist operations in Malaya
Federation of Malaya staff list, 1957
Programme of Merdeka celebrations in Kedah,
Ceremonial parade... confer the title "Royal"...1958
Maps; Malaya, 1950, Canton, undated
Typescripts on the Federation of Malaya Police, the Emergency and communist terrorism.

Piece 30
Malayan Police Magazine, 1937-41, 1951-52 (1 box)

Piece 31
Malayan Police Magazine, 1953-57 (1 box)

Piece 32
Malayan Police Magazine, 1958-64 (1 box)

Series 4 - Photographs

Folio 1
Loose photographs
Photograph Albums, 1934-58

Folio 2
Farewell retirement photos, 23 Aug. 1958; official portrait

Folio 3
Special Constables farewell parade, 26 June, 1958

Folio 4
Alor Star, 1957,1958

Folio 5
Kedah/Perlis police contingent athletic sports. 1958

Folio 6
Baling talks, 1955

Folio 7
Undated-Early Malaya

Folio 8
1934- Malay opera, Gibralta, Tangier, Port Said etc.(1 folio box)

Located in Pictorial Section

  • Small oil portrait on canvas of John Harrison (c.1930)
  • 22 watercolours and 10 pencil sketches depicting aspects of prison life in Changi (mainly 1944)

Box List

1       1-3       1
1       4-9       2
2       10-14     3
2       15-20     4
2       21-24     5
2       25-27     6
3       28        7
3       29        8
3       30        9
3       31        10
3       32        11
4       1-8       1 folio box
Guide prepared November 1994. Last updated 21 August 1996