Sunday, June 29, 2008

Wartime refugees in Fremantle

In 1942 Fremantle Harbour became a port of refuge to five Chinese vessels after the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese. These five ships were crewed by Chinese, but had European officers, mainly British. In all there were about 500 Chinese crew and refugees.

Unrest among the crews occurred . They were demanding increased pay rates and and refusing to work. They threatened violence to the master of the Chungking. The ship's master along with the other masters reported the problem to the naval authorities suggesting that the crews be removed until they agreed to work and obey commands.

About 300 Australian troops armed with rifles and fixed bayonets were ordered to remove the crews and truck them to Woodmans Point Detention Centre. As troops boarded the Chungking about 50-60 Chinese crew attacked the soldiers attempting to take their weapons. Six shots were fired; four Chinese were shot and two of them died. A soldier was wounded by a ricochet bullet.

The 'trouble makers' were separated and taken to detention. The rest of the crews quietened down after the rifle shots.
Photograph: Saxon Fogarty. U.S. submarines in Fremantle Harbour WW2

Research on this event was done by Mr Peter Skehan.

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