There is no doubt that the OC of Z Special, 6 Division, Major Richard Cardew, was a dedicated and conscientious officer. His investigation into the fate of all the patrol members was as thorough as circumstances at the time permitted. However, as the only survivor, Mick Dennis, pointed out immediately after the war and many years later, the testimonies of the Japanese Commanders on the island at the time, Captain's Tomei and Temura, have too many inconsistencies to be true.
Mick Dennis firmly believes that both Japanese officers conspired to create a plausible, but false story about the fate of Sergeant Weber and Signalers Chandler and Hagger. The reasons were obvious, if the truth had been revealed both officers could have been tried as war criminals and executed. Apart from the inconsistencies already highlighted in the book, recently Mick Dennis revealed several facts that I believe prove that Tomei and Temura were lying.
Beginning at page 123 of the book, I describe an encounter with the Japanese by four of the patrol including Mick Dennis. It was here, while being covered by automatic fire from Dennis (the only one to have retained his Sten sub machine gun after the abortive raft escape attempt) that three of the patrol disappeared into the scrub. One of them was carrying an ATR4 radio set. It was this radio the group had retrieved from their beach cache earlier that morning and which they intended taking to the high ground on the island in an attempt to set up communications with the rescue patrol boat - HDML 1321.
It was only after the book was published that Mick Dennis explained: As the three men escaped, with the Japanese firing at them and with Dennis returning covering fire, the patrol member carrying the ATR4 set dropped it. Dennis seeing the radio laying on the ground and realising it might be retrieved by the Japanese, put a burst into it from his Sten.
'There was no way the radio would have worked after that,' Mick explained to me. 'I stitched it with at least five bullets, maybe more.'
The ATR4 was a vacuum tube radio. Anyone who has seen the interior of these sets will understand just how much damage one 9mm round would have done to it, let alone five or more. (see pictures on the Kurrajong Radio Museum's Website)
So it follows that Captains Tomei and Tumera's statement that led to Major Cardew's finding in his report was a fabrication. The relevant paragraph in Cardew's report reads as follows:
"Approximately two days later two of our personnel were surprised by an enemy party while trying to make communication with their W/T Set. The two personnel were shot dead at a range of approximately 30 yards. One of them had in his possession a Welrod." Cardew wrote in his report after interviewing the two Japanese officers.
Major Cardew records that 1 ATR4 set was later reported by natives and recovered from the cache position, so the one remaining serviceable radio was never retrieved by Chandler or Hagger. Being experienced radio operators if the two signallers had returned to the ambush site and recovered the damaged set, one glance at the sight of five bullet holes would have indicated the futility of trying to get it working. They certainly wouldn't have bothered to move it to the location where Tomei and Temura said they'd been shot while using it.
In addition, Mick Dennis insists that all three men were decapitated by the Japanese. Part of this explanation I am obliged to leave until sometime in the future, as it ties in with information that has been in our family since the war, however Mick also revealed that personnel from the army graves registration unit in Lae later confimed to him that this was so.
Natives also reported witnessing their dismemberment and seeing the bodies afterwards, however Cardew decided to dismiss their evidence.
Is this an example of officialdom covering up? Cardew's report suggests that all remains were intact, however he also admits that one body had been severely dismembered - the result of enemy bombing according to the Japanese.
The fact that the Japanese state they didn't bother to examine Sergeant Weber's body where it lay near the waterhole, (as mentioned in the book) is also another glaring inconsistency. Nor did they search Chandler or Hagger's bodies;
"The bodies were not searched and were left lying where they fell for one month".
Standard operational procedures for the Japanese Army and Navy was to search enemy dead for intelligence information, if time and circumstances permitted. In these instances the Japanese wern't under any threat, they had total dominance of the island and could have spared the few minutes it would have taken to make thorough body searches. It's known the Japanese HQ in Wewak wanted as much information as possible about the patrol and this explanation just does not add up.
Mick Dennis was at the waterhole during the time Tomei and Temura claim Sergeant Weber lay dying beside it, but Dennis didn't sight Weber there, alive or dead. (see page 236) Radio intercepts that indicate Weber may have shot a senior Japanese officer several days later, further weakens the two Japanese officer's stories.
There almost seems to have been a desire to dispense with the investigation as quickly as possible without ruffling too many feathers. I've received suggestions that there were some in government at the time who didn't want to see the Japanese tried as war criminals and were anxious to forget the entire issue of the war.
After Mick Dennis gave his initial statement he wasn't sought out again after the investigation by Major Cardew to clarify any points of his story, nor allowed to examine Cardew's findings. Perhaps this was due to the rush to settle accounts post war, perhaps someone wanted the investigation closed without creating further problems.
Whatever the reasons, it seems that Temura and Tomei managed to escape justice, to later return to Japan where both died as venerated war heroes. Pehaps in time the record will be put straight about these two men when the full story of Sergeant Weber and Signalers Chandler and Hagger's deaths are revealed.
I believe Temura and Tomei were both lying, and should have been tried as war criminals.
This is not a matter of vengeance, but a simple matter of truth.
Lest We Forget
Don Dennis, 11 January, 2007
Author's Update, November 2010
Mick Dennis's description has subsequently proved to be correct. These three men were executed by the Japanese after being captured then tortured. Cardew was lied to by the Japanese as part of a co-ordinated cover up of war crimes on Muschu and Kairiru by the Japanese.
In addition an investigation into the fate of the other four men who went missing on this operation has revealed that they landed on Kairiru Island several days later, and were captured and executed by the Japanese.
Information on this investigation and a subsequent search expedition to Kairiru Island in July 2010 that has revealed the fate of the four other missing operatives is posted on this website