August 25th 2018

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COVER STORY Current policies leave farmers high and dry in drought

CANBERRA OBSERVED Captain and Lieutenant's $444 million munificence

MEDICAL ETHICS Changes to AHPRA's code of conduct would gag doctors

FOREIGN AFFAIRS Trump delivers for U.S. economy and workers

CHILDREN AND SOCIETY Treating depressed children: How will history judge us?

PRIVACY Big Brother is marketing you

THE FAMILY Humanae Vitae: a prophetic document at 50

SOCIETY AND MORES Novel features of child sexual abuse in our time

EUTHANASIA International expert emphasises palliative care

BIOGRAPHY The trouble with Harry (Freame) is that we've forgotten him

OPINION Just asking ... sauce for the goose ...?

HISTORY Christianity has died. Agreed, and yet ...

MILITARY HISTORY The volunteering spirit proves best in the test


MUSIC Chilly exposure: The sound and the fury

CINEMA Mission Impossible: Fallout: Ethan Hunt, knight errant

BOOK REVIEW A good diagnosis enables the cure

BOOK REVIEW End of the American empire?



OPINION The Victorian ALP observed from up close

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The trouble with Harry (Freame) is that we've forgotten him

by Dr John Fahey

News Weekly, August 25, 2018

The evidence that Dr John Fahey has amassed points strongly towards Harry Freame, decorated Great War hero, and Japanese translator and interpreter, having been a spy for Australia whose death came at the hands of the Kempeitai, the notorious Japanese military police.

Dr Fahey worked at the Defence Signals Directorate (1988–1996) and served in a number of regimental and intelligence postings during his service in the British and Australian armies between 1975 and 2014. He is an Honorary Fellow of the Department of Security Studies and Criminology at Macquarie University.

Dr Fahey adapted the following article from his book, Australia’s First Spies (Allen and Unwin, 2018), which will be reviewed presently in News Weekly.

On Tuesday May 27, 1941, at 241 Alfred Street, North Sydney, Wykeham Henry (Harry) Freame died in front of his wife, Harriett. Dr M.O. Stormon of 248 Willoughby Road, Naremburn, issued the death certificate, giving the cause of death as gall bladder cancer. The undertaker, T.J. Andrews, then buried him in Grave 0007, an unmarked grave in Section D6 of Macquarie Park Cemetery.

On the surface, this is just another small, sad story in the life of Sydney. Yet there is far more to this story; and the number of the grave, 0007, one digit too long, is ironic.

Harry Freame in about 1920

The problems with the story of Harry Freame’s death start soon after his return to Sydney from his job as a civilian interpreter for Sir John Latham’s mission to Japan in 1941. Harry Freame disembarked in Sydney on Saturday April 12, 1941, the day after Good Friday, and had to be assisted ashore, because he had developed serious throat problems in Tokyo. These problems would kill him in just over six weeks.

One of the biggest problems in this story lies in the official cause of death. Gall bladder cancer is very uncommon. Indeed, it is so uncommon that even today it causes fewer than than 200 deaths a year in Australia and then only after it spreads to other organs such as the stomach, oesophagus, liver or pancreas.

These cancers are easily identified on X-Ray and by physical and blood examination. No signs of cancer were detected in the blood work, X-Ray or stool examinations conducted by Dr Y. Ikeda on Freame at St Luke’s International Medical Centre in Tokyo in late February 1941. What Dr Ikeda did find was complete paralysis of the left nervus laryngeus recurrens and partial paralysis of the right musculus internus (thyroarytenoid muscle), in lay terms, Freame’s vocal cords had been damaged by trauma.

So, why did Dr Stormon discount Dr Ikeda’s findings and the signs and symptoms of throat trauma, in favour of a rare cancer?

The answer may lie with a need to find a cause of death that did not include the possibility of garrotting, which is the cause given by Freame from his deathbed to his wife in front of five witnesses including Mr Etheridge, the secretary of the North Sydney Returned Soldiers League. Harry Freame told his listeners that his injury had been caused by an attempt on his life by garrotting in a Tokyo street in late January 1941.

That there was merit to his claim is substantiated by the evidence contained in official intelligence and other files that show that, not only was military intelligence and the Security Service very interested in him, but so was Fredrick Stewart, the Private Secretary to John (Black Jack) McEwen, the Minister for External Affairs, who had contacted Dr Stormon on two occasions before Military Intelligence began conducting a series of investigations into his death in 1941.

The question is, who was Harry Freame?

Harry Freame was a half-Japanese and half-Australian born in Osaka, Japan, around 1880, to William Henry Freame, an English sailor with a wife and family in Geelong, Victoria, and Kitagawa Sei, the daughter of a samurai from Shiga Prefecture. The bigamous marriage between William and Sei was an historical event in its own right as it was the first formally recognised marriage initiated by a Japanese head of family between a foreigner and a Japanese in history. It thus has a very clear paper trail, although William’s bigamy was not uncovered at the time.

Nothing is known of Wykeham Henry (Harry) Freame’s childhood in Japan, not even his birthdate, as he consistently lied about this. What we do know is that he did not enlist as a boy sailor in the Imperial Japanese Navy as he later claimed and his father was not the Dean of Oxford University, as this position has never existed. All of this suggests that Harry Freame was something of a fantasist.

What is known with some certainty is that Freame served as a British merchant seaman on 22 voyages between May 1902 and November 1909, and he married Edith May Soppitt of Middlesbrough in 1906 before he moved the family to Australia.

Freame appears to have found work as a horse breaker at Glen Innes in NSW before 1914. What is also known is that he was among the first to enlist in the Army following the declaration of war and was posted to the 1st Infantry Battalion, 1st AIF.

Freame went ashore at Gallipoli on April 25, 1915, with the 1st Infantry Battalion as a Lance Corporal, not a bad rank for a half-Japanese soldier in the AIF of 1915. At Gallipoli he soon established a reputation as a scout, probably because of his tall stories about having served in the Mexican Army of Porfirio Diaz and in German East Africa under Major Ziegler, a German officer.

Despite the fanciful nature of his claims, proven to have been impossible, he displayed initiative and courage at Gallipoli to such an extent that Charles Bean described him as “a trusted scout … probably the most trusted scout at Anzac”. He also won Australia’s first Distinguished Conduct Medal of the war and a mention in despatches.

In 1915, these awards were no small achievement for a soldier of any nation, and especially for a half-Japanese digger who had now been promoted sergeant.

Harry Freame was no average soldier. At Gallipoli he dressed like a Wild West cowboy, wearing a bandana and two pistols, one on each hip, a shoulder holster and carrying a Bowie knife. This exotic dress screams “look at me”, and even his bravery may have been of a sort that fitted his fantasist leanings more effectively than the serious work of soldiering in combat.

It comes as no surprise that Freame survived for less than four months, being seriously wounded on August 14 and evacuated to Britain for treatment and convalescent leave. His injuries did not heal well enough to allow him to return to the front, so in early 1916 he was repatriated to Sydney.

During his service at Gallipoli, Freame served alongside Lieutenant E.E. Longfield Lloyd, a man who would subsequently become head of the Security Service and who was repatriated to Australia a little after Freame. With the return of Longfield Lloyd, it appears that Freame fell in with his old officer.

On his return to Australia, Longfield Lloyd was posted to the Intelligence Section of the General Staff in Sydney. He then enrolled in Professor James Murdoch’s government-sponsored Japan­ese-language program. It seems that Freame was the Japanese-speaking returned soldier who was teaching for Murdoch at Fort Street High School.

It is also likely that, with his expertise in Japanese, Freame worked as a translator and secret agent, keeping tabs on Japanese consular staff and nationals in Sydney.

Later, like many returned soldiers, the unqualified Freame took up farming, on an orchard block at Kentucky on the New England Tablelands; and, like so many others, failed to make a living from it.

The Freame family did it hard. Edith Freame became ill and was in and out of hospital for 12 years until her death in 1939. Freame was declared bankrupt and the farm stripped from him. According to Harriett, his second wife, he now pulled some strings and was employed as an agent by Military Intelligence.

The archives corroborate Harriett’s claim that Freame was employed in defence work of a “highly secret nature” from December 4, 1939. Military Intelligence, which had taken it upon itself to run counter-intelligence, must have been very pleased that not only could he speak and read fluent Japanese, he was a returned soldier and desperate for a job.

The new secret agent’s handler was Major William Scott, a militia officer who had suffered severe shell shock in France in 1917. Scott’s real job was insurance broking and he was heavily involved in right-wing politics, particularly in the New Guard. Scott was also in the Australia-Japan Society, either as an agent provocateur or because he really supported its objectives of closer relations.

Scott, who would later disastrously lead GULL Force on Ambon in 1942, seriously mismanaged his “highly secret” agent. In fact, his management of Freame was so bad that by August 30,1940, Freame was working for the Military Censor without Scott’s knowledge and Lieutenant Colonel Hodgson, the Secretary of the External Affairs Department, was trying to recruit him for the interpreter position in Tokyo.

It is most likely that External Affairs became aware of Freame through the office of the Military Censor. The fact that officials were bandying a secret field agent’s details around government betrays the poor operational security of Australian Military Intelligence in 1941 and the complete lack of security consciousness in the wartime government.

In fact, it was so bad that, in a stunning lapse of security, Scott passed Freame’s home telephone number and address to Hodgson.

Hodgson easily obtained the loan services of Freame as a temporary clerk for Sir John Latham’s mission to Tokyo, and this author has no doubt that Major Scott and Military Intelligence saw an opportunity to run Freame as a clandestine intelligence agent in Tokyo behind Latham and Hodgson’s backs.

If all of this was not bad enough, in early September 1940, a month or so before Freame was to leave for Tokyo, someone in Canberra, most likely Hodgson, briefed the Australian newspapers on the appointment. On September 13, Freame’s details, including his “special defence work” and his appointment as interpreter to the Australian Legation in Tokyo, were published in the Australian press.

Only The Sydney Morning Herald, The Examiner in Launceston and the Cootamundra Herald, did not mention Freame’s “special defence work”. The Sydney Sun, however, not only mentioned it but also exposed Freame as being half-Japanese. This stirred up a hornets’ nest and on September 17, Major Scott tasked Section 1C of Military Intelligence to ask The Sun “what the special defence work is and who supplied this information”.

The situation worsened when the Minister for the Army, P.A. McBride, wrote to the Minister for External Affairs, John McEwen, blaming Hodgson for the leak. McEwan swatted McBride aside by charging that “no disclosure of any confidential information to the press about the activities of Mr Freame” had been made by his department and that, anyway, Freame’s activities were “well known to the Japanese authorities here, including the Consul-General”.

McEwen then covered his tracks, telling McBride that Hodgson had already cleared Freame’s posting with the Japanese Consul-General, who agreed the appointment “was an excellent one, as Mr Freame had created a very favourable impression”.

Even today, the naiveté of this statement is breathtaking. In 1940, no Japanese diplomat could protect anyone from the Kempeitai, the Japanese Military Police. Not only that, but as recently as July 1940, anyone who read an Australian paper would have been aware of the murder in Tokyo of James Melville Cox, the Reuters correspondent and senior British Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) officer in Japan.

The Australian Department of External Affairs also knew from British secret reporting that the spying game had gotten much more dangerous in Japan since changes to the law in 1937. Following this change, Lieutenant General Tojo Hideki, Japan’s Minister for War, had promised that Japan would “not hesitate to take drastic measures against Japanese who assisted foreign secret agents and those who were pro-British”. James Cox’s murder and the rounding up of the entire British SIS cell operating within Japan at the time proved that this was no idle threat.

In 1935, the Australian government even had the evidence from the experiences of one of its own citizens, the 75-year-old Reverend J.N. Mackenzie, a missionary who had spent 25 years caring for Korean lepers.

Mackenzie’s crime consisted of owning a camera. He was arrested and tortured and only survived because he was so highly regarded by the Japanese government and the Government-General of Korea. To save face, Mackenzie was convinced to admit he was an international spy, so that he could be handed over to the civil authorities for trial. He was fined 25 yen and released.

On this occasion, the British and Australian governments were warned by the British Consul that the Japanese “gendarmerie [the other title of the Kempeitai] is unfortunately independent of the civil government and is … very much a law unto itself”. The files in Canberra and Melbourne contain all of this evidence.

By 1940, the Kempeitai held the right to arrest, torture and punish all foreign spies, excepting Americans, who were under the protection of the Japanese Foreign Minister. British spies were fair game, as General Tojo made clear.

James Melville Cox died when, according to the Japanese, he threw himself through a small fourth-floor window while eluding the two guards who always escorted prisoners. Another British agent, Vanya Ringer, was told that he would be dealt with the same way if he did not tell the truth. Cox’s widow told Ringer that Cox’s body had more than twenty needle marks on it.

Yet, on October 11, 1940, Freame boarded the SS Tanda and sailed for Tokyo, where suspected spies were thrown out of fourth-floor windows.

The outcome was a given and, although we have no evidence to support Harriett Freame’s claims, Harry Freame arrived in Japan and started his duties as an interpreter and odd job man around the legation. The Kempeitai took action and he was garrotted on a Tokyo street on January 27, 1941.

The evidence for this claim is entirely circumstantial, as it always will be in intelligence matters. One of the bits of evidence that stands out in the files is a letter that Harriett Freame wrote to E.E. Longfield Lloyd on June 16, 1941. She tells Lloyd that Freame had been very worried by the press reporting on his posting to Tokyo and that he said he was being “shadowed here and there after those silly people of The Sun” printed the story.

The importance of this letter is that it makes it clear that Lloyd had contacted Harriett first. In it, she thanks him for his “lovely letter and tribute to Harry” and adds. “I cannot write it but I would welcome an interview at anytime” and “I would love to tell you about it. I know it was as you say, but I don’t know if Sir John Latham is even aware.”

There is no copy of Lloyd’s letter in the archives and we do not know what it was that “was as you say”.

Longfield Lloyd did little for Freame or the family other than advising the Department of External Affairs that the “possibility of Mr Freame having received [his] injury in Japan is not a remote one”.

Harry Freame's last resting place:
Grave 0007 in Section D
of Macquarie Park Cemetery.

Even with this support from the head of the Security Service, there was no action to investigate Harry Freame’s death or to support his family beyond paying for his burial in an unmarked grave and providing Harriett Freame with an ex gratia payment. Even then, the Australian government embarrassed itself when the Cabinet approved the payment to Harriett of £100, 25 per cent of his annual salary, but then, acting on Treasury advice, reduced it to £50. Harry Freame’s grateful nation provided his family about six weeks’ salary.

By comparison, the British government paid James Cox’s widow £5000, a substantial sum of money in 1940, and substantial evidence that James Cox was an SIS officer working under the cover of journalism in Japan.

Today, we have the very great likelihood that Wykeham Henry Freame, Australia’s first clandestine intelligence operative to be killed serving his country, and a highly decorated ex-soldier, is lying in an unmarked grave in Sydney, unacknowledged and unwanted by his country.

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