Tuesday, January 29, 2013
Major Sidney Bedford was very uncomfortable, both physically and emotionally. Here he was stuck in a Courts Marshal for a man who appeared to be a traitor. Yet one couldn't be sure. Major Cecil Boon was being put on trial for collaboration. John Harvey and Michael Tugby were already let off because of the severe circumstances of the conditions in which they were held. The conditions were some of the worst ever endured in the 20th century. Because of the charges, after the war, they had endured nearly a year of ostracism and suffered the total loss of the joy of homecoming. All three were early survivors of the Japanese conquest of Hong Kong. All three were held for the duration of the war as POWs. All three stood trial.
Boon was considered the worst of the lot. He had 11 serious charges against him.
1. On or about Aug. 21, 1943 he informed on his fellow prisoners who were planning an escape attempt.
2. On or about Sept. 1st, 1943 he assisted in a search that found wireless components being used by fellow prisoners.
3. On or about Sept. 12th, 1943 he informed on Hubert George Carkeet.
4. On or about Oct. 20th, 1943 he informed on Maurice Richard Jones.
5. On or about Dec. 14th, 1943 he informed on William Joseph Buckley.
6. On or about Oct. 18th, 1944 he wrote a letter to the USAAF, who had just bombed Hong Kong, knowing that the letter would be used for propaganda purposes.
7. In May, 1944 he informed on Dutch Naval Petty Officer Waarenberg.
8. Between Aug. 23rd, 1943 and Aug. 17th, 1945 he assisted the enemy in the interrogation of Allied prisoners of war as to their duties.
9. Between Aug. 23rd, 1943 and Aug. 17th, 1945 he assisted the enemy in the interrogation of Allied prisoners of war regarding the organization and equipment of the Royal Signals and British artillery.
10. Between Aug. 23rd, 1943 and Aug. 17th, 1945 he designed and implemented a system for spying on Allied prisoners of war.
11. Between Aug. 23rd, 1943 and Aug. 17th, 1945 he assisted the enemy in preventing prisoners of war from communicating, receiving medical and other supplies, and assisted with the selecting of medically un-fit prisoners for work duty.
Major Boon pleaded not guilty to all charges. His counsel complained of the inability to procure witnesses from Hong Kong because of the current hostilities. Witness after witness for the prosecution presented damning testimony. Some even told tales not in the official charges, charges of assisting the enemy in searches, bribing the commandant with Red Cross packages, preventing parcels from being given to the men and informing on men who were writing letters home. 44 witnesses testified for the prosecution. One of the most interesting pieces of evidence was Boon’s own diary written in Russian admitting to some of the incidents.
The case boiled down to three questions…
1. What constituted “aiding the enemy”?
2. The meaning of the word “voluntarily’.
3. Intent to commit the crimes.
The Defense argued that many of the alleged offenses were by omission and not ones of commission, such as not asking for the suspension of parade on days of harsh weather. Boon told others to ask the commandant rather than asking himself. Another example would be looking the other way as the “Fat Pig” Col. Takanuka took supplies from the prisoner’s stores and Red Cross packages. An error of omission, not of commission, as described by the Defense.
The prosecution made an impassioned argument that Boon had aided the enemy, that he had hostile intent, and that throughout the period he had done it voluntarily for personal gain at the expense of his fellow prisoners. It was argued that he was a Regular Soldier in the Army. That he was brought up and trained to be a soldier and that the raising of a bamboo stick should not make him forget his duty and quake for his life.
“Yes, he is a coward and he let his cowardice aid the enemy.” That statement from the prosecutor rang through the court room.
Major Boon was found guilty of 6 counts and directed to serve 20 years of hard labor. Major Bedford might have sided with the defense in other circumstances. If they were not at war and the public wanted to heal and not dwell on the past, forgive and forget as it were. The fact that they were once again at war and this time with the Soviets, and that Boon had written his diary in Russian, convinced the panel that Boon had to be punished. And punished, he was.