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HARRY - THE MYSTERIOUS AUSTRALIAN SPY!

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JUNE 3 2019 - 9:00AM

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

Jim Belshaw

May be an image of 3 people and people standing

Final chapter: The SS Tanda, the ship that carried Harry Freame to his death.

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 States in 1939 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.

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