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Coconut chess set


This 32-piece wooden chess set, encased in a coconut shell, was hand carved by Lieutenant Lancelot Hugh Herd while a prisoner of war in Changi Prison, Singapore.

Herd served with the New Zealand Engineers during the First World War. During the interwar years he became a well-known Wellington solicitor and yachtsman. At the outbreak of the Second World War he joined the Royal Navy Volunteer Reserve (RNVR) and was posted to Singapore in command of a Fairmile ML motor patrol boat.

On 13 February 1942 he was ordered to evacuate from Singapore and proceed to Batavia (Jakarta) via Muntok on Banku Island off the coast of Sumatra. Unfortunately the Japanese had already occupied Muntok and Herd and his crew were taken prisoner. After a period in Malayan prisoner of war camps Herd was finally sent to Changi where he remained until the end of the war.


National Army Museum Te Mata Toa
Accession Number: 1992.2326
Permission of the National Army Museum Te Mata Toa must be obtained before any reuse of this image.

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Coconut chess set, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated