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

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

End of a mysterious life: Harry Freame returns to Australia to die

Final chapter: The SS Tanda, the ship that carried Harry Freame to his death.This is the seventeenth in a series on Australia's early intelligence activities, the thirteenth on the life of Harry Freame. And so our story comes to an end. .

On 11 October 1940, Harry Freame sailed for Tokyo on the SS Tanda to set up the new Australian Legation.

Harry was worried by all the publicity, including the identification of his previous intelligence activities. He thought that he had been followed in Sydney in the weeks before his departure. He was right to be worried.

The economic sanctions imposed by the United State in1939 in response to the Japanese invasion of China were biting hard. Japan was already considering pre-emptive military action. The month before he sailed, Japan had signed the Tripartite Pact with Germany and Italy.

The new Australian Legation could probably have done little in any case, but the delays in appointing Sir John Latham meant that it was arriving after the signature of the Tripartite Pact.

John Fahey records that as the political climate worsened, the feared Kenpeitai was instructed to crack down on foreign intelligence activities in Japan.

Many Australian service members would meet the Kenpeitai to their cost. Founded in 1881 as the military police wing of the Imperial Japanese Army, it had evolved into military police plus intelligence plus enforcement wing. It was, in effect, a law in itself.

Political considerations limited action against US nationals, but all others were targets. Harry Freame had a particular problem because he was half-Japanese.

Events now are as confused as anything else in Harry Freame’s life.

The family believed, and there is evidence to support this view, that he was garroted on 27 January 1941, destroying his larynx. The official Australian position at the time was that he had throat cancer. Later family attempts to gain adequate compensation would be unsuccessful.

Severely ill and barely able to speak, Harry Freame was repatriated to Australia where he died and was buried on 29 May 1941. It had been quite a life!

This is not quite the end of our story, nor the last sad part.

Finding the orchard unprofitable with wartime restrictions, Harry Jnr decided to enlist. He tried to join the air force, but was unsuccessful. He therefore joined the 33rd Battalion, a militia unit, on 31 October 1941.

On 27 March 1943, he entered the Royal Military College, Duntroon, graduating as head of his class on 4 April 1944. He had now achieved that office rank his father had sought so many years before. 

Harry Jnr was posted as Lieutenant to the 2/24 Battalion where he served on Tarakan. On 7 May 1945, Australian papers carried stories of a successful attack he had led on a Japanese pillbox. He was killed the following day.

It happened almost by accident. Suffering from a tooth abscess, Harry Jnr had called into a medical post. Invited to stay overnight, he was asleep when a Japanese soldier crept in and threw a fused shell under his bed. He died instantly. 
Note to readers: This post appeared as a column in the Armidale Express Extra on 5 June 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   

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