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'Angel of Changi' in Perth to meet ex-POWs

Mrs Seah dressed up as a hawker to smuggle food to prisoners.
Mrs Seah dressed up as a hawker to smuggle food to prisoners. PHOTO: SEAH KIM BEE

Mrs Mary Seah - dubbed the "Angel of Changi" for helping to smuggle food and medicine to prisoners of war at Changi Prison during the Japanese Occupation - was in Perth in September 1965 for a reunion of former POWs.

During the war, she was tortured by the Japanese for her efforts to help POWs at Changi.

Mrs Seah, a trained nurse, social worker and midwife, found out about the poor conditions there when she went looking for her 16-year-old son, who was taken away by the Japanese.

He was never found.

She disguised herself as a hawker to smuggle food and other items to the prisoners. When the Japanese discovered she was a nurse, she was beaten and made to stand in the sun for days.

Later, she gained permission to enter the prison camp - after she treated the facial sores of a Japanese officer.

Mrs Seah was recognised for her humanitarian deeds after the end of World War II.

She moved to Australia in the 1970s, and received the Order of Australia, one of the top civilian awards conferred by the government there, in 1996. She died in Sydney at age 95 in 2000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on September 20, 2015, with the headline ''Angel of Changi' in Perth to meet ex-POWs'. Print Edition | Subscribe