Thursday, November 20, 2014


New Zealand has a rich military history.    But, while we are happy to claim Nancy Wake as one of our own (despite the fact that she left for Australia at a very early age), it appears no-one but no-one wants to acknowledge the fact that one of the greatest traitors of WW2 was New Zealand born.     His treachery far overshadows that of the much better known John Amery who masterminded the 'British Free Corps' or William Joyce (Lord Haw Haw) or even Lance Corporal Roy Courlander, 2 NZEF, who actively recruited POWs into the BFC.

Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan was born out of wedlock at Reefton on the West Coast on 29 July 1910.    It is suggested his father was a mining engineer, George Heenan, who played representative cricket for NZL in the 1882/83 season.    Soon after the family moved to Burma where he was baptized Heenan.    Heenan senior died in Burma in 1912 and later the mother took Patrick to England where he was educated at two upper-class schools; Sevenoaks School in Kent where he was a boarder, and then at Cheltenham College in a stream designed to prepare him for a military career.    By all accounts Heenan did not perform well enough to be accepted for officer training.   Instead, he joined a British company with extensive business interests in Asia.  

Later he successfully applied to join the Army Supplementary Reserve and in 1935 he was commissioned into the British Army and posted to India where he served with the 16th Punjab Regiment but was later transferred to the Indian Service Corps.   This apparently was a device commonly used to side-line unsatisfactory officers.   In 1938-39 Heenan took six months long leave in Japan.

In 1941 Heenan was sent to Malaya where he served with a Air Liaison Unit  stationed at Alor Star in Kedar State.   It was in this area that most of the RAF, RAAF and RNZAF units were based.    On 8 December the Japanese invaded Malaya.   By 10 December they had destroyed most of the allied aircraft in North Malaya.   Their air raids, which concentrated on the airfields, were assisted/directed by Heenan.   On that day Heenan was caught “almost in the act”.  Among the espionage equipment found in his possession was a morse code transmitter operated by an alphanumeric keyboard similar to a Traeger Transceiver.

Heenan was taken to Singapore where faced a Courts Martial in January 1942.    Such was the 'confusion' with the Japanese beating at the door, he does not appear to have been formally sentenced. He remained in custody and by 13 February (after the Japanese invaded Singapore) Heenan was reportedly taunting his guards ... ‘that he would soon be free and they would be prisoners’.     The British Military Police decided to take matters into their own hands ... they cut cards to decide who would kill him.   He was taken to the dockside when he was killed by a Sergeant with a single shot to the head.   His body was dumped into the harbour.

Fascinating story which needs to be told.    You can't pretend history never happened.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Corporal Roy Courtlander wasn't a Kiwi as far as I'm concerned.

He only moved to NZ in 1938

And on 10 April 1939 he was arrested and convicted and sentanced to 9 months imprisonment for breaking and entering a Napier house.

John Amery was British

William Joyce was US born Brit

Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan lived only the 1st year of his life in NZ so I doubt he considered himself a Kiwi.

The Veteran said...

Anon 11.27 ... I never said or implied that Amery or Joyce were Kiwis ... only that they were traitors. Courlander was a member of 2NZEF and was the subject of a New Zealand courts martial. If my memory serves me right he served his time in Mt Eden. Later he became mixed up in the Social Credit PoliticaL League before moving to Australia were he lived an impoverished existence.

Heenan was NZL born. Don't think anyone knows what he thought himself as. By all reports he was very much a loner with few friends. He is the subject of the book 'Odd Man Out - The Story of the Singapore Traitor' by Peter Elphick and Michael Smith. In the book he is described as "a New Zealander serving in the Indian Army".