Wednesday, May 10, 2017


Details of  the  WWll  episode in  which  HMAS  Patricia Cam was  sunk  by a  Japanese  floatplane  off  Arnhem Land  , a   passenger  taken away and later   beheaded    at   Dobo  in  the Aru Islands   , were  given in  a  talk  by Mike  Owen    in  Darwin  this  week .
Owen is the Darwin based   co-founder  of Past Masters' International , a  diverse   group of  specialists and  members of  the  public, intent on unravelling  the mysteries  of  Australia's  past .  
A wooden  auxiliary  vessel  operated  by  the Navy  out  of  Darwin ,  with  two officers and a  crew of  17 sailors,  it   ran supplies  to  small   communities  and  coastwatchers. In January  1943 , it picked up  passengers, including Reverend Leonard  Kentish  ,  head  of  Methodist Overseas Missions , intending  to  sail to Elcho Island .
It was attacked and bombed  by a  Japanese   floatplane , which landed , took Kentish prisoner , and  flew off   with  him  to  Dobo , where he  was   questioned , severely  beaten  , starved  and  eventually  executed. He was  said to have been the  only  Australian  prisoner of  war taken  in  mainland  Australian  waters.
Some  survivors   drifted   in  a   lifeboat, others clung  to debris-the remains of one  found nine years later in a  cave   on  Valencia Island , 320kms   from the  sinking .   Aborigines   found  some  survivors, supplies were  dropped by the RAAF  before  HMAS  Kuru  arrived .

For years , Mrs Kentish ,  living in Brisbane ,  not knowing what had happened  to her husband , wrote  to  newspapers  desperately seeking  information from anybody who  may know  something . By luck , Alfred Wilson ,  reading the    Melbourne Age , in 1946 , had been an intelligence officer   on  Horn  Island  , at the tip of Cape York ,  and had been  transferred to General Douglas MacArthur's   top secret  intelligence group , Central Bureau .  Using a  contact in Tokyo , he was  able to find out what  happened  to  Reverend Kentish .

There is an  account of  The Kentish Affair  in the  website .Three Japanese   appeared  before  the  Allied  war  crimes  trials  in Hong Kong  over  the   beheading ,  one hanged , two  sentenced to  life  imprisonment .    
In 2013, an expedition   in  search of Arnhem Land   secrets   found   the   above part  of   HMAS   Patricia  Cam displayed in the graphic   .   (The late Rupert  Kentish , another missionary, was  the Member  for Arnhem  in  the  Northern  Territory Legislative  Assembly in  the  l970s ).