New England's History

Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

A brief period of stability and success for the Freame family as the clouds gather



Boarders at St Johns Hostel, Armidale, 1937.Back row: F R Allen (Warden), W (Bill) Peters, - McGlauchlan, I Thompson, H Conway, R (Bob) McLean, R (Bob) Jack, J S Keogh, B (Barry) Cook, K (Ken) Bowman, C (Colvin) Churches, D (David) Marr, - Morrison, L (Laurie) Barnes, B (Bruce) McKenzie, - McRae, S (Stauby) Baker Third row: D Spencer, J B Ivor, Bruce-Smith, W (Wal) Sabine, - Godfrey, J (Jim) Munro, D Hall, J (Canary) Woodhouse, H (Harry) Freame Jnr, I (Ian) Ferris, R Crawford, J (Jack) Thompson, C (Charlie) Sourri, J (Jim) Morrison, D Ferris, C (Chicka) Henderson. Second row: E (Edward) King, M (Max) Virtue, A (Austin) Kimball, B (Basil) Virtue, K (Ken) Wall, J (John) Millett, F Kerr, - Roper, Canon Dickens, Matron, Dr Drummond, R (Bob) Gray, R L Waugh, R (Ross) Clark, P (Peter) Capel, W (Wal) Samuels, R (Rex) Hobden, - McGee. Front row: R (Ron) Green, M (Malcolm) Hawke, I A (Ian) Clarke, A (Allan) Gray, J (John) Hays, A G Thomas, N (Norm) Melick, D Hays, J Rolands, A J Jameson, D Dowe, J E (Jas) Barnes, A R Keohan, C R (Clinga) Gibson, R (Ron) Gray.

This is the twelfth in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the eight on the life of Harry Freame.  

Following May Freame’s return to Kentucky, she seems to have settled back into local life. Initially Josephine remained with the family, but in 1934 she made the decision to leave the Freame household to live in Sydney.

This was a brief period of stability for Harry and his family.

May was much better. Writing to her family just before Christmas 1938, she said that had been able to manage in the house without help with a little assistance from Henry (the family always called Harry Henry) when he was not too busy. “I much prefer having my home again”, she wrote.

Harry Jnr had been doing well at Armidale High School, boarding at St John’s Hostel.

Today, we forget how difficult transport was with rough roads and few private cars. Kentucky is only 39 kilometers from Armidale, but that made daily attendance at High impossible without boarding.

To assist country children who could not afford to pay the fees at one of the city’s boarding schools, the Anglican Church maintained boys’ and girls’ hostels in Armidale where country children could board while attending Armidale High.

It is clear that Harry Jnr enjoyed his time boarding and at Armidale High. Writing to the English family at the end of 1937 to thank them for their Christmas presents, his letter is full of successes in sport, of being a prefect, of how much he had enjoyed his time at school.

The family hoped that he would get a bursary for further study. He did, one of three NSW bursaries for further study at the Technical College in Sydney.

 Grace was also doing well at school. The brief reports in the Uralla Times record some of her primary school successes. There was hope that she could board at the Girls’ Memorial Hostel to study at Armidale High.

Grace and Harry Jnr clearly got on. In his letter home, Harry Jnr records how she had insisted on polishing one of his silver trophies!

Reflecting on this period in Harry’s life, I was glad for the family successes but also greatly saddened. Clouds were now gathering that would take Harry back into his past and, in the end, destroy the things he had worked so hard achieve.

The early intelligence assessments that had led to the creation of Australian’s first intelligence operations after the First World War had focused on the Pacific and especially Japan.

Japan was seen, correctly, as a strategic threat to Australia and the Empire.  Prime Minister Hughes had dismantled the effort. Now that decision would come home to haunt Australia.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 1 May 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

Sunday, May 05, 2019

Who were the first occupants of Sahul?


A largely complete, roughly 300,000-year-old skull from southeastern China appears to be the latest evidence challenging the dominant model of human evolution. The Hualongdong skull’s unique combination of features make the fossil a tantalizing clue to East Asia’s diverse hominin history. 
Researchers excavating a collapsed cave site unearthed the skull, formally known as Hualongdong 6 (HLD 6), along with additional partial fossils of archaic humans and animals, plus assorted stone tools, over the last decade or so. Using the ages of surrounding mineral deposits and other material in the cave, the team determined the skull and other remains were about 300,000 years old.
My regular commenter JohnB pointed me to this story. I will leave you to read it: Hualongdong Skull Is Latest Challenge To Dominant Human Evolution Model.

I think that there are several key points to note.

The first is that the simple out of Africa for the emergence of modern humans is, as John had argued, becoming increasingly uncertain. There may well have been multiple regional streams.This brings me into arguments that I lack the knowledge on which to comment.

The second point is that the Aborigines on their travels to Australia may well have travelled through a populated landscape. We do not know by whom or how many, but it was populated as measured by Denisovan genetic traces in Aborigines and Papuans. 

 All this raises the question of the who were the first settlers on Sahul, the name given to the ancient continent. We know, or seem to know, that early hominids arrived in the Philippines before Aboriginal settlement of Sahul. This was a longish sea journey suggesting that early hominids could travel by sea to new areas. So did they reach Sahul?

Because of the loss of skeletal remains and limitations on analysis in Australia, we may never get results here. But as more Asian results emerge, we may get a better precursor picture.

None of this detracts from the saga of the Aboriginal occupation of Sahul. It just indicates the need for care in the conclusions we draw, the arguments we mount based on those conclusions. 
 

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

The Growers' Co-operative debate



 Harry Freame pictured with Grace on Anzac Day in Sydney. This is the eleventh in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the seventh on the life of Harry Freame.  
In June 1924, a meeting was held at Kentucky to consider the formation of a growers’ cooperative. In addition to the soldier settlers, the meeting was attended by Mr A A Watson, Director of Soldier Settlement, and Mick Bruxner, one of two Progressive Party members for the state Northern Tablelands seat.

Harry Freame had been an active supporter of the move to develop a grower’s cooperative. Now he expressed reservations.

“Why should I put in a board of directors to run my business, and I pay them to do my work?”, he asked.“I can buy my materials as cheap as they can, and get as good a return.” This was a substantial challenge, for Harry had considerable influence.

Reading the newspaper report of the meeting, there were two problems that worried the settlers.

The first was membership. Should this be limited to soldier settlers or should other growers be allowed to join? The second was one of scope and costs, the extent to which the cooperative might limit the freedom of growers to run their own businesses.

Both Watson and Bruxner argued strongly in favour of the cooperative.

Bruxner put the matter bluntly. There were six equivalent settlements into NSW alone coming into full production at the same time. Cooperation was needed. On the question of a broader membership, put the rum and milk together was his advice.

The meeting decided to proceed with the cooperative.

While Harry was concerned with farm and settler activities, May Freame’shealth was deteriorating. She had not recovered from depression and towards the end of 1924 she disappeared from the scene, not returning until 1930. While the exact circumstances are unclear, Tait suggests that she had been admitted to a psychiatric institution.

Josephine had remained a member of the Freame household, joined in 1923 by her son John (Chappie).

Josephine Collins nee Clarke was born at Tenterfield in 1886. She had married a Brisbane surveyor, Walter Collins, with son John born in 1914. That marriage had broken up before she became May’s companion and then housekeeper.

While May was away, Harry continued his community involvements. Josephine, too, was active within the community.

A relationship developed between the two. The result was a daughter, Josephine Grace Freame, born in October 1927.

Grace was always recognized as a Freame family member. She was close to her half-brother and father. Later, she accompanied Harry on his annual Anzac day visit to Sydney.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 24 April 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The spreading Denisovans

This short piece by  Meilan Solly, in the Smithsonian ,The Hominins We’ve Been Calling Denisovans Are More Diverse Than Previously Thought, provides a very useful summary of current thinking.

So far the only Denisovan remains that have been found are from a cave in Siberia. But the DNA analysis suggests that their influence was wise spread, with several Denisovan groups.

The significance for New England history and the history of the Australian Aborigines in general is that while we now know that Aboriginal ancestors interacted with the Denisovans we do not know when and where. Had the Denisovans actually reached Sahul, prehistoric Australia, or was the interaction earlier. The second is the current view, in South East Asia.

The further back the dates of human occupation of Sahul are pushed, the more complex the story becomes. At 62,000 years, all things are (I guess) on the table.

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Battling settlement and separation



 May Freame wrote: “Sorry to say the parrots are beginning to pick it too so I don’t know what there will be to harvest when ready." (Sheila Goodyear collection). This is the tenth in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the sixth on the life of Harry Freame.  
Our understanding of post natal depression is quite recent.

After the birth of their son, May Freame seems to have become quite depressed. Finally, it became imperative for May to return to England and her mother.

Harry pleaded with her to stay, to wait until the following year when he might be able to go with her, but May needed mother and home.

On 2 July 1922 May, along with seven months old baby Harry and mother’s-help Josephine Clarke, sailed for England on board the Benalla. The Freames had found the money to hire Josephine, although it must have been a battle given that they were still trying to establish the farm.

Harry was now alone and would be for the next fourteen months. He missed his family. “I haven’t has the pleasure of watching my little man …. changing out of babyhood to a little boyhood” he wrote to May’s family in England.

Harry threw himself into developing their little 43 acre block. He also continued to play an active role in the developing Kentucky community, trying to build the social infrastructure and facilities necessary for the community to prosper.  

This series was triggered by Harry’s colourful life and his role as spy. However, looking at this part of our story, I think that his community life was just as important.

Harry was seeking to establish a stable place for himself and his family, an acceptance as a part Japanese Australian whose own life was complicated, into a new world where he and his family had a secure place.

Despite the sadness that is coming, I think that Harry achieved that.

On 28 August 1923, May sailed from London for Australia, accompanied by Josephine and Harry Jnr. Her mother was worried about her silent moods, although sister Emily though that she was much better.

The party arrived back in Kentucky on 9 October 1923, an event duly recorded in the Uralla Times. Josephine remained with the family as housekeeper.

May seems to have slotted back into the rhythms of life on the Kentucky Settlement.

It had been a bad winter, one that forced some of the settlers off the land. Harry was active on his block and in social, church and Settlement activities. We know this from the Uralla Times whose short Kentucky reports frequently mention Harry.

My fancy was especially tickled by a report (29 November 1923) on a Uralla Cricket Club Social. There we learn that the Kentucky Sausage King (Mr H Freame) won the prize for the most original fancy dress costume!

I wonder what it looked like?
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 17 April 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Building a new life book-ended by war


Kentucky, May 1922: Possibly Harry Jnrs christening. Reverend George Comie, Miss J. Clark with Harry, May and baby Henry.This is the ninth in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the fifth on the life of Harry Freame.  

A few years back, I was surprised at the sudden emergence of 1950s nostalgia. I shouldn’t have been. I had just forgotten just how tumultuous the first half of the twentieth century had been.

A 1950s older Australian had been through much. They or their parents had experienced the economic crash of the 1890s, the Federation drought, the First World War, the Great Depression and then the Second World War.

Families had been torn apart, hopes destroyed, as brief periods of calm, of prosperity, were followed by further catastrophes. No Australian family, locally born or part of the new post war immigration intake, had been spared.

The 1950s marked the start of the longest period of relative peace and prosperity that Australia had seen in more than sixty years. Perhaps it’s not surprising that many now wrap that time in the haze of nostalgia.

I mention this now because the story we are exploring of the development of Australia’s intelligence services in general, the story of Harry Freame in particular, was bookended by two great wars with a depression in the middle.

In April 1921, May Freame wrote to her bother in sister-in-law in Failsworth in the UK. It’s a long newsy letter, full of local Kentucky detail.

The couple seemed happy. Henry (the family always called Harry Henry) was working hard, as indeed he would do all his life.

While the potato price had been low for the latest crop, Henry had avoided going into debt as so many of the Settler families had had to do.  He was worried that he would not be able to pay for May to go home for a visit as promised.

“I tell him not to worry”, May wrote, “we cannot order things just as we would like.” She went on: “I consider there is still hope & will not worry about it. I have only been here two years & the promise was in five years.”

In the midst of local activities, May is clearly missing some of the routines of home and especially church.

Since Minister Comie left they had not even had the regular monthly church services. Still, another minister had been given the Call and May hoped that he might accept.

It is clear from May’s letter and the irregular reports in the Uralla Times that Harry was building a life not just for his family but for the local community and his family in that community.

In December 1921, May gave birth to their son, Henry Wykeham Freame, always known as Harry within the family. This happy event marked the start of a new set of troubles.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 10 April 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Settlement for soldiers: half the new farms would fail



 Kentucky Soldier Settlement block: Settlers had to build homes and develop their blocks with limited resources.This is the eighth in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the fourth on the life of Harry Freame.  

The idea of soldier settlement, the settling of returned soldiers on the land, emerged quite early during World War One. It was a way of rewarding returned soldiers that fitted with the desire for closer settlement.

South Australia acted first, passing legislation in 1915. In February 1916, Australian Governments agreed to establish a national scheme under which the Commonwealth would select and acquire land, while the States would process applications and grant land allotments.

Later in 1916, NSW passed the Returned Soldiers Settlement Act in 1916.

Land was to be made available to the soldiers on affordable terms and they could receive advances of money to make improvements to the land, which was often in poor condition. They could also use the money for equipment, plants, stock and seeds.

It was quite a complex process. Land had to be acquired, broken into blocks and then allocated. The blocks were generally small with the intention of creating smaller scale farming such as horticulture, poultry, dairying or piggeries.

Many of the new farmers had no direct experience and little capital. They had to build houses, develop their land and create new communities.

Government managers were appointed to coordinate the process, organize facilities and training. Government stores and post offices were created to support the settler endeavours.

By July 1924, there were 6,448 farms covering 8.1 million acres. Half of the new settlers would fail, driven down by work and debt.

Harry Freame was an early applicant for the scheme. On 20 November 1916, the day he was officially discharged from the Army, he was awarded a 40 acre block.

Development of the Kentucky Soldier Settlement began in 1918 on land acquired from Kentucky Station. As with other settlements, everything had to be created from scratch.  

It is not clear when Harry actually moved to Kentucky, although late 1919 or early 1920 seems the most likely date. There he became Government storekeeper and postmaster. This gave him an income at the same time as he began development of his block.

Around April 1919, May joined her husband in Australia.

They had married in July 1906 but had never really lived together. First Harry was away at sea and then came the War. During this time May seems to have lived at home with her family.

Now after almost thirteen years of marriage, they were creating their first household in what was, for May, a strange place far away from home.
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 3 April 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

Wednesday, March 06, 2019

Harry in the frame for new agency


In August 1915, Harry Freame was badly wounded at Gallipoli and finally repatriated to Australia. By 20 November 1916, the day he was officially discharged from the Army, he was living at 2 Bondi Road, Bondi.

Freame’s return to Australia coincided with the attempts to establish a new intelligence network to monitor Japan whose translation efforts were headed by James Murdoch. 

Murdoch. a journalist and teacher, had been appointed as a professor at Sydney University to allow him to take up the role.
Harry Freame in Sydney c1920. It is likely he was recruited to intelligence activity as a Japanese speaker.This is the sixth in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the second on the life of Harry Freame.  
 Murdoch had a major problem in finding sufficient Japanese speakers and began to recruit from Japan. His recruits entered the country despite the then White Australia Policy. Murdoch’s wife was Japanese too. It seems from immigration records that the White Australia policy was bent to allow all this to happen.

 This was neither the first nor the last time that this happened. The White Australia Policy was never an absolute, but more a barrier that could be relaxed when circumstances demanded it.

It seems likely that Harry Freame was recruited to this intelligence effort. We have no direct evidence for this. However, intelligence historian John Fahey mounts a fairly convincing case.

Fahey shows first that Freame was linked through the Army to two of the people involved in the creation of this new intelligence network. He has also found references to an unnamed Japanese speaking Australian ex-serviceman who was being used by the group.

Freame was a native Japanese speaker. We know of no other Japanese speaking ex-serviceman at this point, so the connection seems likely.

In all this, it also seems likely that the newly appointed Japanese consul in Sydney was well aware of Australian activities including Freame’s possible involvement.

Australia was in many ways a very small goldfish bowl. The newspapers covered new arrivals, while the Japanese or Japanese speaking community was very small that they were known to everyone including the Consul.

There is no evidence that I know that either Japan or the Consul were especially worried about Australian activities at this point. However, it does seem possible that files were created that might later prove fatal to Harry Freame. 

As I described in an earlier column, political infighting led Prime Minister William Morris Hughes to cancel this first Australian intelligence operation targeting the Pacific in general, Japan in particular.

By the time Freame became involved again, Australia was in the position it had been in 1916. It had a renewed interest, but no structure and very few Japanese speakers.

I am jumping forward. Even before Hughes closed the Pacific Intelligence Branch that had been carrying out Australia’s Pacific intelligence activities, Harry Freame had decided to return to New England.

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 27 February 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

Wednesday, February 27, 2019

‘Spy’ a hero of Gallipoli



Harry Freame at Gallipoli. This is the sixth in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the second on the life of Harry Freame.  

In my last column in this series on Australia’s early spies, I referred to two stories about Harry Freame that became built into the Freame legend.

The first was that in 1904 he served as part of an international band of mercenaries hired to help suppress a revolt in German East Africa, the second that he worked as an intelligence office for President Porfirio Diaz during the Mexican wars.

The legend also says that with the collapse of the Diaz Government in 1911, Freame fled Mexico by pack horse with a price on his head, escaping to Australia via Chile.  

In his book Australia’s First Spies, John Fahey points to evidence that suggesting that that these stories are just not possible. That said, events would now occur that do make we wonder. Just how did a merchant seaman acquire some of the skills Freame apparently possessed?

When war broke out in 1914, Harry was working as a horse breaker at Glen Innes with wife Edith still in England.  Horse breaking is a skilled trade. If Harry spent all his time at sea, where did he learn to break horses? Was he just a quick learner? He could certainly bluff.

Harry enlisted and in late October 1914 sailed with the 1st  Infantry Battalion for the Middle East. He arrived on Gallipoli on 25 April as lance corporal and was subsequently promoted to sergeant.

On Gallipoli, Harry worked as a scout, Here, writer Darryl Kelly suggests,” Harry's skill and knowledge of previous campaigns began to surface.” Perhaps not, Mr Kelly accepts the legend, but Harry was clearly very brave and adopted a swashbuckling style that fitted with his claimed past.

The army uniform was modified. Leather pads were fitted to elbows and knees, the .303 rifle was replaced by pistols worn on both hips, a third pistol was carried in a small shoulder holster under his shirt, a bowie knife in a boot scabbard. A black and white bandana worn around the neck completed the outfit.

In service, Harry earned Australia’s first Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) and was mentioned in dispatches for his bravery under fire. Australia was in need of heroes and his exploits were reported in local newspapers and later in Bean’s official history of the war.

On 14 August 1915, Harry was badly wounded and was evacuated and finally repatriated to Australia. A new chapter in the Freame story was beginning. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 20 February 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019   

Monday, February 25, 2019

Creating the Freame legend




Osaka 1800s: This was the world in which Harry Freame grew up. This is the fifth in a new series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the first on the life of Harry Freame. 

In my last column, I spoke of Australia’s efforts towards the end of World War I to establish an intelligence service capable of spying on the Japanese Empire.

That effort failed because it became embroiled in political disputes that had little to do with the objectives, and much to do with the personality and power position of then Prime Minister William Morris Hughes.

However, it did (we think) introduce a New England character to the world of spies and spying.

I say think because that figure wrapped himself in so much myth and conflicting stories that none of us can be absolutely sure. Even his own family could not be sure.

Wykeham Henry (Harry) Freame was born in Osaka Japan about 1880 to William Henry Freame, an English sailor, and Kitagawa Sei, the daughter of Kitagawa Yasuaki, a local samurai from Shiga Prefecture.

According to John Fahey, the marriage was an historic event in its own right because it was the first in Japan where a Japanese head of family officially sought to instigate a marriage to a foreigner.

This was not welcome and it took time to arrange. Finally, approval was granted in June 1873 by the main office of the Great Council of State.

I doubt that the office would have adopted the same position if they had known that William was already married. He had, in fact, married Ellen Coker on June 20, 1867 in Melbourne and already had a son. 

Harry always lied about his age depending on purpose, creating confusion.

When he enlisted in the Australian Army in August 1914, he gave his age as 29, then lowered it later depending on the position he was seeking. However, we know that he was born before his father died at the end of 1881.

It appears that Harry was educated in Osaka until the age of 15 or 16, learning to speak fluent Japanese. He then left for England and entered the merchant marine.

"He (Harry) was clearly a better husband than his father for his wages were paid to his wife."


In England in 1906, Harry met and married Edith May Soppitt from Middlesbrough. He was clearly a better husband than his father for his wages were paid to his wife. Later, he would nurse her on the family farm at Kentucky until her death.

From this period in the merchant marine would come two stories that became part of the Freame legend.

The first is that in 1904 he served as part of an international band of mercenaries hired to help suppress a revolt in German East Africa, the second that he worked as an intelligence officer for President Porfirio Diaz during the Mexican Wars.

Looking at the dates, I have always thought that the first was unlikely, the second just possible. But whichever way, they would become part of the Freame legend.  

Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 13 February 2019. I am repeating the columns here with a lag because they are not all on line outside subscription. You can see all the Belshaw World and History Revisited/History Matters columns by clicking here for 2009, here for 2010, here for 2011, here for 2012, here for 2013, here for 2014, here for 2015,  here for 2016, here  2017here 2018, here 2019