Intermission Story (5) – HMAS Patricia Cam

HMAS Patricia Cam

A bombing, a beheading, and an incredible escape from drowning using a pocket knife.

It sounds like the plot to a Hollywood film, but this is a piece of history about a World War II bombing off the East Arnhem Land coast that has been discovered accidentally after 74 years.

Reverend Len Kentish

One morning in 1943, coastwatcher and missionary Reverend Len Kentish and five Yolngu men from Arnhem Land communities jumped on board the HMAS Patricia Cam to go to Yirrkala.

The ship was then bombed and machine gunned by a Japanese sea plane.

“It blew the bottom out of the ship and she started to go down immediately,” historian Mike Owen said.

Mandaka Marika lives in Yirrkala, and his uncle Milirrma Marika died in the attack along with Djimanbuy, Djinipula Yunupingu and six other seamen.

“It’s a very sad feeling just like losing someone, a loved one … In our heart we remember our brave uncle,” Mr Marika said.

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Reverend Kentish was taken as a prisoner of war, the only Australian to be captured from home waters.

“The pilot got out with a pistol and beckoned to one of the men, and it happened to be the Reverend Kentish, and he swam over and got on board and was given a drink and they took off,” Mr Owen said.  “He was held captive for a couple of months … he was taken out and beheaded by his captors.”

Narritjin Maymuru and Paddy Babawun survived the bombing after an incredible fight.

They were underwater from the force of the bomb and drowning under a tarp, but they managed to free themselves by cutting through it with a pocket knife and their teeth.

“When they shot the boat, [Narritjin Maymuru] was underneath the water with a tarp … he had a pocket knife, he cut it and came up through that one,” Mr Maymuru’s nephew Danadana Gundara said.

But this story was lost in history for 74 years.

Mr Owen discovered it while looking for African coins in East Arnhem Land.

“On our last day we found a large piece of timber from a ship, and while I was investigating the find I realized it was in the right place for a Patricia Cam … So I started chasing the story down,” he said.

HMAS Patricia Cam Memorial in Yirrkala

A ceremony to commemorate those who died was held in Yirrkala this year for the first time, and a plaque in the community is the only memento for those who died in the attack.

“Every year we should remember these brave men working for the Australian Army that were killed there,” Mr Marika said.

The Yolngu men’s descendants are now calling for them to be commemorated at the Australian War Memorial.

“They offered their life, they sacrificed their lives for family and the land. That’s an excellent job,” Mr Gundara said.  “We are Australians and we have to do the same things for all, for black and white, we’re all working together.”

The additional survivors after reaching Darwin.

Click on images to enlarge.

This story is from ABC News Australia, 17 May 2017.

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Military Humour –

There’d better be some beer in THIS drop!

Smart Move!!

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Farewell Salutes –

Mavis Amon – Wellington, NZ; WA Air Force # 420507, WWII

Nichael Bond – Reading, ENG; RAF & Army; WWII, ETO, Middlesex Regiment

Harold Brown – Hunter’s Hill, AUS; RA Air Force # 74174

Patrick Crowe – Warrnabool, AUS; RA Air Force # 13544, WWII

George Davidson – Newtown, NZ; RNZ Navy # 8832 / RNZ Army # 620738, J Force & # 206028, K Force, WWII

Frank Hirst – Adelaide, AUS; RA Air Force, WWII

Hansen Kirkpatrick – Wasilla, AK; US Army, Afghanistan, Pfc, 1st Armored Division, KIA

Raymond Parris – San Antonio, TX; US Army Air Corps, WWII, B/187/11th Airborne Division

Robert ‘Bobby’ Temple – Shiloh, IL; US Navy, WWII, USS Oklahoma, Seaman 1st Class, KIA (Pearl Harbor)

Robert Towns – Canberra, AUS; RA Navy, HMAS Barcoo

In honor of the Australian veterans that we have lost, please listen to “The Last Post” given to us by Paol Soren!!

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About GP Cox

Everett Smith served with the Headquarters Company, 187th Regiment, 11th A/B Division during WWII. This site is in tribute to my father, "Smitty." GPCox is a member of the 11th Airborne Association. Member # 4511 and extremely proud of that fact!

Posted on July 7, 2017, in First-hand Accounts, Uncategorized, WWII and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 70 Comments.

  1. Exceptional story gp, descendants of the survivors will still be living today, and as is with Aboriginal history, their story’s will be told and retold for generations to come.
    Great post mate.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Great story.Thanks for sharing it

    Liked by 1 person

  3. compassionate recognition of indigenous people
    caught in the craziness 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Referring to Calm Kate’s comments, I remember reading about the devastating impact that WWI had on NZ. There were such great losses in terms of per capita men of agricultural experience that schemes were set up to plug the gap. I can’t remember the details or source at this moment. Thanks for featuring this little known part of Australian WWII military history. And the link to the Last Post being played on the violin is amazing. This music always brings a lump to the throat. It is played every night all around Australia at 6pm in returned service clubs. In fact, I was in one just a week ago. We stand, face the remembrance light, listen to the Last Post (on a bugle) and then observe a minute’s silence, after which we recite Lest We Forget. It is very touching.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Riveting stuff – thanks for sharing.
    RIP all those brave souls.
    Kindness – Robert.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. An amazing story! The “Intermission” posts really round out your blog, GP – they give added depth and context to the tale of this extraordinary time in world history. Three cheers for all you do here!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you very much. It was the best way I could find to put in current news going on, stories I missed, additional info and home front. I’m very glad you like them!

      Like

  7. We so rarely hear about our indigenous people helping in times of war. Thank you for this.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. That this story was lost for a time does nothing to diminish the bravery of these men.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Your posts are becoming more and more sophisticated. My hat is off to you. Your new (to me) arrangement is outstanding!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. This story really touches my heart. Especially the closing line, “We are Australians and we have to do the same things for all, for black and white, we’re all working together.”

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Great story, certain to be lost to the “unremarkable” history if some people (like you) didn’t work hard to make sure it was told. There are so many of these stories.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Wonderful story, keep them coming!

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Incredibly moving story GP. War really does bring out the best and the worst in people. It’s difficult to imagine the great allies and friends that we have in the Japanese were at war with us 70 years ago.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. It is good this story finally got told

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Thank you for sharing this account with us. The more I know about the Japenese during WWII they were as cruel as any country in modern history (read the Diary of Nanjing).

    Liked by 1 person

    • War brings out some completely abhor-able behavior, especially piled on by not being able to feed the prisoners, interrogation only handled with violence, fear of their own superiors and feeling they would never return to their homeland to “face the music” all helped to add to their behavior. I’ve read many Japanese accounts, but I’ll add the ‘Diary..’ to my list.

      Like

  16. What I find strange is the Aborigines talking of their own dead. Normally this is a subject that is taboo with them, once dead their names must not be mentioned and they are spoken of obliquely.
    This is a story that I feel deserves a place in the Australian Maritime Museum, too. I’ll bring it to their attention.
    The Japs seemed to take great delight in beheading Australians, this is perhaps the most graphic

    http://rarehistoricalphotos.com/leonard-siffleet-sword-1943/

    Liked by 1 person

    • The Nisei in the States and many Native-Americans have been very ‘close-lipped’ about their experiences too. I’m glad these Aborigines have spoken up so that the story can be remembered and honor given to them.
      The story did come from Australia, but I do not know if the Maritime Museum has it as well. That photo is all-too familiar!!

      Liked by 1 person

  17. “There’d better be some beer in THIS drop.” Truer words were never spoken! 🙂 –Curt

    Liked by 1 person

  18. A lot of sad things for some men ,who lost their life and were not forgotten

    Liked by 1 person

  19. My Dad never bought anything Japanese in 70 years. How awful to kill innocent people like that.

    Liked by 1 person

    • War brings out the best and worst in people. Many of the Japanese committed suicide, not because they refused to be taken prisoner, but they could not now face their parents after all they did.

      Like

  20. Super story, GP. Amazing that the two underwater survived.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. How sad and pointless to behead the young reverend. All local people and fighters who helped the main armies should get due recognition.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Wonderful to read this story.

    Liked by 1 person

  23. “all working together”. As it should be. Not against each other.

    Liked by 1 person

  24. great to see the aussies included, and those cartoons are spot on 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  25. I wouldn’t be surprised if a movie did come out of this story…incredible!

    Liked by 2 people

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