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S.E.E. NAVAL YARD, H. K.: W.H. ORGAN, P.OW. JAPAN: LETTER from HIS WIFE

This PRISONER OF WAR POST, SERVICE DES PRISONNIERS DE GUERRE cover was addressed to W.H. Organ, S.E.E. Naval Yard, Civilian Internee, Hong Kong. It had the AUSTRALIAN RED CROSS insignia on it as well as C/O JAPANESE RED CROSS SOCIETY, TOKYO, JAPAN and a purple diamond ‘3/ PASSED/ BY / CENSOR/ 329' handstamp and a red hand stamp of an oblong with Japanese print. The date of 30/ 3/ 43 had been printed in pencil and the significance of the red crayon ‘S’ is unknown (Figure 1).

The reverse had a return address of Mrs A. Organ, Lownadoon, 4 Dover st. N. Moree. NSW, AUSTRALIA. It had a red ‘3 Opened by Censor’ label and the purple handstamp ‘3/ PASSED/ BY/ CENSOR/ 329 (Figure 2).

The S.E.E. Naval Yard in Hong Kong. in World War II has not been identified but the undated postcard shows a view of Hong Kong Harbour and Naval Yard and the ‘vintage’ ships suggest that this was a considerably earlier view than during this war (Figure 3).

Anyone who lived through WWII in Australia still remembers how successful Japan was in over-running Asia and the Islands of Oceania, as well as the air attack on Darwin in the Northern Territory and the shells fired from mini-submarines in Sydney Harbour. The position of Hong Kong (the 2 lowest red dots, one on the mainland of China and the other contiguous island of Hong Kong) is shown in the map ‘The Japanese Empire 1942' and it also showed how close Australia was to a land invasion by the Japanese (Figure 4).

W. H. Organ, Civilian Internee, Hong Kong has not been positively identified to date, but the Moree Historical Society has been contacted with the hope that members of the Organ Family in North Moree, New South Wales can be identified. The status of W.H. Organ during World War II has not been identified, his name is not listed on the WWII War Memorial, but a Private W.H. Organ is listed as being buried in the Hodogaya Cemetery, near Yokahoma, Japan and he is identified as an Australian buried there in the Commonwealth War Cemetery in Plot A, Row D. The possibility exists that this could be a son of the Organs, given the same initials as the father.

The Yokohama War Cemetery is situated about 5 kilometers west of cental Yokohama and about 30 kilometers from the centre of Tokyo. It is the only war cemetery in Japan administered by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It is composed of 4 main parts: the U.K. section, the Australian section, the Canadian and New zealand section and the Indian section. In the Australian section there are graves of 277 known and 3 unknown Australians. There are 10 navy, 250 army, 8 air force and 9 merchant navy named graves. A picture of the Australian section is shown in Figure 5.

This paper must be considered a work in progress, as research will be carried out in East Moree, N.S.W. in January 2010.

Addendum (January 2010): 

The article from the Gwydir Family History Society states "separated from their husbands for the duration of the War, wondering about them in POW camps or waiting to hear if they have been killed or were missing, must have been extremely difficult."  The wives and children of servicemen, civil servants and businessmen from outposts like Hong Kong..... were transported from these scattered outposts (by planes and boats) to Australia, many getting out only hours ahead of the Japanese hordes."

"The first batch of 40 women and children arrived at the end of January 1942 in Sydney... The departure of about 400 to Moree NSW in batches of 40 or 50 by the North west Mail Train (was) on alternate days...The huge number of women and children were received into private homes, flats, guest houses, vacant houses...When the tide of the war had turned rally and truly, our friends were naturally excited when their fist papers were received arranging repatriation to England and other parts of the British Empire."

"Thelma Organ's father was a submarine specialist and as such was seconded to the British navy in 1937 and worked in the Naval Dockyard in Hong Kong which was invaded by the Japanes on the 8th December 1941.  After the fall of Hong Kong on Christmas Day 1941, Thelma's father was a Prisoner of War and was later sent to Japan where he died three months before the war was ended."

Most of the evacuees did not like country life and went to Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane.  Thelma's mother, "Anne Organ had a fine mezzo soprano voice and was involved in concerts in Moree.  The children settled in at school and some, like Thelma, made lifelong friends.  She was sixteen when she left Moree at the end of the war...and they were sent back to Britain where her mother remarried and moved back to Hong Kong.  Thelma herself married and lived in Hong Kong."

After several visits to Moree, Thelma and her family moved to Australia to settle in Perth Western Australia, where she has spent 35 happy years.  Written by Thelma Stewart (Organ).  

A picture of Thelma Organ's mother, Anne Organ in the garden of Hardman's house in Boston Street, Moree, is seen in Figure 6.

This addendum would appear to negate the suggestion in the text that Private H.K. Organ buried in the Australian Gravesite in Japan was not a civilian internee, and he may have been an English national, not Australian.  The addendum does not mention a son in the Organ family, with or without the same initials, so this matter is still undecided.

Acknowledgement:  Three people have been involved in obtaining this addendum:  Mrs.Joan Hetherington and Patrick Roohan of Moree and Thelma (Organ) Stewart. 

 

 

 

 

 
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