Almanac Footy History: The Changi Brownlow – Peter Chitty

 

 

 

 

 

 

Peter Chitty played two games for the Saints in 1936 after being recruited from Albury.

 

Born in March 1912, he was 24 when he made his VFL debut. His entry in the Encyclopedia of AFL Footballers simply reads “Peter L.A Chitty (St K)-1936, 2 games 0 Goals (b.11 March 1912,170 cms,70kgs). Ex Albury”.

 

The full Peter Chitty football story however is a lot more detailed than that.

 

Peter Chitty achieved one of the most remarkable accomplishments in Australian Football. He was the only winner of the Changi Brownlow medal!

 

The following is an extract from Australian War Memorial records:

 

“At the outbreak of the Second World War he (Peter Chitty) was working as a dairy farmer on the family property at Cudgewa. He along with three of his brothers enlisted in the Second Australian Imperial Force.

 

Peter enlisted on 25 July 1940 in Caulfield, Melbourne and was assigned the number VX48347.  After initial training he was posted to 2/2 Motor Ambulance Convoy in January 1941 and promoted from Private to Acting Corporal.

 

Arriving in Singapore on 1 March 1941, he was confirmed as Corporal on the 8th.

 

From March 1941 to February 1942, Chitty served in Malaya with the 2/2 MAC, undergoing numerous detachments to 2/9 Field Ambulance and 10 Australian General Hospital. His last detachment was recorded as 17 January 1942 and he was posted as missing on 26 March 1942.

 

It was not until 9 June 1943 that he was confirmed as a prisoner of war. Official details of his time as a POW were not recorded, although he did serve on the Burma-Thailand railway. This service is referred to in the citation for the British Empire Medal which he was awarded on 12 March 1947.

 

It reads, ‘L/Sgt CHITTY was a prisoner of war in Japanese hands from Feb 42 to Aug 45. In 1943 he was a member of an AIF party engaged in the construction of the Burma-Siam railway. During various long marches through the jungle under extremely difficult conditions L/Sgt Chitty set an outstanding example of unselfish conduct and courage continuously helping the sick by carrying their kits as well as his own and helping them along and constructing shelter for them when halted. By these means he undoubtedly saved lives. During the whole period that he was in Burma-Siam and subsequently in Malaya L/Sgt Chitty was outstanding in conduct and devotion to duty under difficult circumstances”

 

Peter Chitty was recovered from Changi POW Camp on 8 September 1945 and arrived in Sydney in October 1945. He spent some time in hospital on his return to Victoria and was discharged on 5 December 1945. Three of Peter Chitty’s brothers also enlisted in the Army,

 

Arthur served in North Africa with 2/23 Battalion and was killed in action at El Alamein on 22 July 1942.

 

Ronald and Phillip also served in North Africa, both with 2/2 Field Ambulance and were taken prisoner by the Germans. They were repatriated in 1943.

 

During WW11 Chitty was one of thousands of Australian POWs held prisoner at Singapore’s notorious Changi prison. After many months the men formed their own football league.

 

The chief organiser was Wilfred “Chicken” Smallhorn. Chicken who played for Fitzroy and won the Brownlow Medal in 1933.

 

There were six teams created. They also created their own administration to oversee clearances to other teams and a Tribunal. Apparently sides keenly offered players inducements to change teams such as extra rice portions.

 

Chitty was assigned to the Geelong team. When the Chitty family donated the Changi Brownlow to the Australian War Memorial his son Roger, said the competition was as fierce as any other and lasted nine months.

 

At the end of nine months the Australian officers not the Japanese, demanded the games be stopped because of the fierceness of the competition. Following the officer’s decision to stop the Australian Rules competition a final match was held between Victoria and the rest of the country. Peter Chitty was named Captain of Victoria. Over 10,000 prisoners turned up to watch the match. Following the game Peter Chitty was awarded the Changi Brownlow Medal.

 

For the record Peter Chitty led Victoria to a victory 14.9.93 to the rest 10.5.65. War Memorial records describe the medal in some detail:

 

“Gold; Silver; Small circular silver medallion with a decorative scroll attached to the top. The front of the medallion has a hammered finish with a gold shield in the centre. The shield is surrounded by a wreath and a scroll which is engraved with the words ‘GEELONG FC’. The reverse of the medallion is hallmarked with the maker’s details and engraved ‘1943 Changi POW Brownlow Medal WON BY Sgt Peter L A Chitty “BEST & FAIREST”‘.

 

The medal has been the subject of much discussion regarding its origins. Some say it was created from a piece of an aircraft wing while others suggest it was part of a kitchen utensil. The War Memorial offers the belief it was an old soccer medallion found in stores and refashioned and engraved.

 

This  photo of the medal can be found on the War memorial website. www.awm.gov.au

 

 

 

 

The medal had been with Peter’s widow Lilian, until it was given to the Australian War Memorial. Roger Chitty said at the time, that his father had always kept it with him, calling it his good luck charm until his death in 1996.

 

In the extract earlier from the War Memorial it mentions Peter Chitty was awarded the British Empire Medal for his actions at Hellfire Pass. According to his son Roger, that medal “did not hold a candle” to his very own Brownlow.

 

References:  –

 

www.awm.gov.au –

www.afana.com –

The Encylopedia of AFL Footballers Russell Holmesby, Jim Main.

 

Note. This article has been previously published. It was written prior to the book the Changi Brownlow by Roland Perry. On page 366 of his book under the heading Articles/brochures/tapes, Perry acknowledges this article which I have updated slightly from the original..

 

Grant, Alan “Saints in World Wars. Legends of the Game. Peter Chitty. Official website of the StKilda Football Club.

 

This article no longer appears in the St Kilda or AFL websites.

 

 

 

Allan has also been writing a series for the Almanac on St. Kilda’s premiership year of 1966. You can read it here.

 

 

Our writers are independent contributors. The opinions expressed in their articles are their own. They are not the views, nor do they reflect the views, of Malarkey Publications.

 

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Comments

  1. Priceless history, Allan. Thank you for enriching the day.

  2. Garry Irwin says

    I read this book several years ago and it was a good read.

  3. Good stuff Allan.

    Timing of this article is perfect, as we’ve got the John Curtin posting up at the same . Almost like bookends, the story of Peter Chitty, one of the thousands of unfortunates trapped as the Japanese militarists southward push shattered the old certainties of the European Colonial powers who’d lorded over the region. The story of John Curtin shows the resilience of how Australia managed to resist invasion, then see through to the victory over fascism.

    I’m curious how many VFL players ended up POW’s. Any body have this information?

    Glen!

  4. Allan Grant says

    My notes tell me 30 VFL players were prisoners of war in WW1 and 2.. i havent updated them in a while but it would be close to right.

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