photo
Australia's War 1939-1945
title

The Reverend Leonard Kentish (third from the right) outside the 'Bush Chapel' at RAAF Station Darwin, probably in 1942
[PH0151/0001, Steenholdt Collection, Northern Territory Library]

Patricia Cam
Patricia Cam prior to her commissioning by the RAN as an auxiliary minesweeper.
[AWM 301155]

Trials
photo

video
video still
Identification of Japanese War Criminals at Rabaul.
[AWM F07362]

video
video still
Trial of Sergeant Major Sugino, Labuan.
[AWM F07405]

'war crimes'
photo
Flying Officer Eric Thake, RAAF War Historical
Section, sketches Lieutenant General Yamada,
commander of the Japanese 48th Division,
at Koepang, Timor, October 1945.
Yamada was charged with the murder of two
missionaries on Flores Island, in the Netherlands
East Indies, but was acquitted.
[AWM 120153]

In 1946 the International Military Tribunal for the Far East began to prosecute Japanese military and civilian leaders for alleged war crimes. More than 2000 trials were held all over south-east Asia, the Pacific and in Japan. More than 5,700 men – mostly Japanese servicemen and Korean guards – were charged with murder and brutal treatment of prisoners and civilians. Many were released due to insufficient evidence but 920 were executed and about 3000 sentenced to imprisonment.

One of these Allied war crimes trials opened on 21 May 1948 at Kowloon, Hong Kong. Three Japanese prisoners (two members of the Imperial Japanese Navy and one civilian) had been charged with the murder of the Australian missionary, the Reverend Leonard Neil Kentish, on 5 February 1943.

'the trial'
drawing

On 29 August 1946, the Adjutant of 3 Australian Prisoner of War Contact and Enquiry Unit reported on the circumstances of the Reverend Leonard Kentish’s death at Dobo in the Aru Islands (now part of Indonesia):

1. The Rev KENTISH was taken on board a Jap float plane on Jan 22 43 after it had sunk the patrol vessel HMAS “PATRICIA CAM” off WESSEL IS.

2. Unfortunately no info can be obtained of the whereabouts of the Rev KENTISH until 13 Apr 43, when he arrived at DOBO.

3. The Rev KENTISH was held at DOBO as a prisoner till the 4 May 43. Throughout this period he was subjected to ill treatment by severe bashings, the most common being punches in the nose and eyes to such an extent that his nose was broken, and he had great difficulty in seeing. His diet, as such, was just sufficient to keep him alive.

4. On the morning of 4 May he was taken in to the scrub, (a distance of under 200 yds from the township of DOBO) where a grave had been prepared, and executed.

5. The execution was carried out by the order of 1st Lieut SAKIDJIMA.

6. The remains of the Rev KENTISH have been recovered, and handed over to Capt STOCKWELL, of the War Graves Unit. They will be transported to AMBON, and buried in the Internees cemetery there.

7. This case is now considered closed. All dates must be treated as approx.
Attached hereto copy of dental chart received with above report.

[Item 336/1/1273 (1 of 4), MP742/1, National Archives of Australia (NAA)]

photo
Surviviors from HMAS Patricia Cam rescued by
the motor launch Kuru, a week after their sinking
near Cape Wessel in the Northern Territory.

Identified are (front row) L-R: Stoker Arthur Bennett of Melbourne, Victoria; Able Seaman (AB) Greg Durrington of Sydney, NSW; Telegraphist Bert Stevens of Sydney, NSW; Steward Alfred Tanner of Melbourne, Victoria. (standing) AB Don Brun of Adelaide, SA; Stoker George Williams of Melbourne, Victoria; Ordinary Seaman Vivian Murray of Mackay, Queensland; Sub Lieutenant John Leggoe of York, WA; Cook John Hawkins of Melbourne, Victoria; Lieutenant Alexander Meldrum of Sydney, NSW (commanding officer of Patricia Cam); Petty Officer Hulbert Challender of Hobart, Tasmania; AB Aubery White of Perth, Western Australia and Engine Room Artificer John McKimmie of Launceston, Tasmania. 29 January 1943, HMAS Melville.
[AWM 014329]

Leonard Kentish, a Methodist missionary and civilian coastwatcher, had been one of the passengers on the stores carrier, HMAS Patricia Cam as it travelled from Millingimbi towards Cape Wessel in the Northern Territory. On 22 January 1943, there was a tremendous explosion on board and the ship began to sink. Two men were killed in the explosion and the survivors leapt quickly into the water, some without even their life jackets. The Japanese floatplane, which had bombed the ship, flew over the men in the water. It strafed them and dropped another bomb into their midst killing more of the men. The aircraft landed in the water and one of the Japanese air crew ordered Kentish, who was nearest them, to swim over. He was hauled onto the aircraft and they flew away. The survivors from the Patricia Cam were rescued a week later but the fate of Kentish was not discovered until long after the Japanese had surrendered.

In 1946, it was discovered that Leonard Kentish’s Japanese captors had beheaded him on 5 February 1943. At 9.45 am on 21 May 1948, a Military Court was convened in Hong Kong and the three men accused of his murder appeared before the court.

 

 

Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
Australia at war 3 September 1939
Libya and the Siege of Tobruk 1941
Greece and Crete April-May 1941
Syria and Lebanon June 1941
Malaya December 1941 to Moresby May 1942
Australia under attack 1940-1945
Coral Sea, Kokoda, Milne Bay May-September 1942
El Alamein October-November 1942
The Home Front 1939-1945
The Coastwatchers 1941-1945
Australian prisoners of war 1940-1945
Little-known operations 1939-1945
Papua 1942-1943
The Japanese retreat March 1943-January 1944
War at sea 1939-1945
Air war Europe 1939-1945
Bougainville, Borneo, New Britain, New Guinea 1944-1945
8 May 1945/15 August 1945
The Reverend Leonard Kentish (third from the right) outside the
'Bush Chapel' at RAAF Station Darwin, probably in 1942.
[PH0151/0001, Steenholdt Collection, Northern Territory Library]