We had two bren guns in the police armoury, along with several Owen guns and about 200 .303 standard Lee Enfield service rifles.
At that time rifles were on individual issue to native police, who took their guns with them when proceeding on home leave.
At the rear of the barracks was a weapons range and it was there I noticed the skeletal remains of twin gallows: one a wooden structure and the other of wood and steel.
During the 1942-45 war, when Japanese forces captured the
After the war, the Australian War Crimes Commission sat at Rabaul from December 1945 to August 1947 and on Manus from June 1950 to April 1951 and there were two trials at Wewak in late 1945.
In all, 503 Japanese were tried and 92 were convicted, sentenced to death and, after appeals, executed.
With the war crimes trials impending in Rabaul, two gallows were erected by an Australian Army construction unit, probably on the site of the pre-war native police barracks and gallows which had been destroyed during the war.
There were two means of execution: shooting, which was regarded as being an ‘honourable’ death; and hanging, a ‘dishonourable’ death reserved for the very worst the crimes. Many high ranking Japanese officers came into this latter category.
Most executions were carried out by hanging. For these
executions, several experienced pre-war
The first execution by hanging was on 20 March 1946 when a warrant officer of the infamous Kempei Tai was executed. In total, 84 men were hanged on the Rabaul gallows and five in Manus.
On one occasion, as a Japanese about to be hanged, on being asked if he had anything to say, he screamed “Banzai” in an apparent attempt to cause a large number of assembled captive Japanese witnesses to riot. His words were quickly cut short.
It seems likely that the last time one of the gallows was used was for the execution of a native policeman in Rabaul in April 1947 for the bayonet murder of a local woman. There were two subsequent executions by hanging in Lae at the police barracks in December 1954 and November 1957, the last in PNG.
Over the years the corrugated galvanized iron that shielded the gallows was pillaged by nearby shanty town dwellers.
The end of the gallows came in April 1960, when
Photos: Top left – Rabaul gallows 1946 (Captain Joseph Backhouse). Top right – Rabaul gallows 1960 (Inspector Maxwell Hayes)
Australian War Crimes Trials and Investigations (1942-51) DCS Sissons.