A miserable scene

Although the fate of many Australians who remained in Rabaul will probably never be officially confirmed, we do know what happened to Richard Harvey.

Richard was the youngest Australian to be executed by the Japanese during World War II. He was 11 years old in May 1942 when he was shot by a Japanese firing squad near Matupit in New Britain. Just six months earlier the Australian Government had organised the evacuation of all European women and children from Papua and New Guinea. Among the small group of women who had requested permission to remain in Rabaul, Richard's mother, Marjorie Manson, was one of only two who were not working there as nuns, nurses or missionaries.

Marjorie Manson had gone to New Guinea to work as a secretary in 1937, taking her then six-year-old son with her. Not long after her arrival she wrote home to her mother in Brisbane to tell her that she had married a planter, A A (Ted) Harvey.

Ted Harvey had been a coastwatcher during 1940 but was cut from the service in 1941. Despite warnings to keep off the air after the Japanese invasion of Rabaul, he continued to transmit reports by commercial frequency. Members of the Imperial Japanese Navy arrested the family after a local informer revealed their hiding place and they were taken to Rabaul and subjected to a three-day court martial. The three of them were found guilty of spying and communicating with the enemy and sentenced to death by firing squad. According to one Japanese witness, it was

a miserable scene and the parents had clasped hands with the boy between them.

[Statements by Yoshimura and Hamata, quoted by Hank Nelson in 'The Return to Rabaul', The Journal of Pacific History, Vol 30, No 2, 1995 pp.149-150]

Strangely, the Australian Government took no action against the Japanese perpetrators during the War Crimes Tribunals at the end of World War II. The Australian Legal Officer, Major A D McKay, accepted the Japanese evidence that the court martial had been fair and that the execution of the Harveys, including 11-year-old Richard, had not violated war codes.

[Sources: Hank Nelson, 'The Return to Rabaul' in The Journal of Pacific History, Vol. 30, No 2, 1995 and Peter Stone, Hostages to Freedom: The Fall of Rabaul, Oceans Enterprises, Victoria, 1995.]


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DVA (Department of Veterans' Affairs) ( ), A miserable scene, DVA Anzac Portal, accessed 4 March 2024, https://anzacportal.dva.gov.au/wars-and-missions/world-war-ii-1939-1945/events/japanese-advance-december-1941-march-1942/fall-rabaul/miserable-scene
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