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Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan
Born (1910-07-29)July 29, 1910
Died February 13, 1942(1942-02-13) (aged 31)
Place of birth Reefton, New Zealand
Place of death Keppel Harbour, Singapore
Buried at Buried at sea
Allegiance  United Kingdom
 Empire of Japan as a spy
Service/branch British Indian Army
Rank Captain
Unit 16th Punjab Regiment
Indian Army Service Corps
300 Air Liaison Section, Malaya

World War II

Patrick Stanley Vaughan Heenan (29 July 1910 – 13 February 1942) was a captain in the British Indian Army who was convicted of treason, after spying for Japan during the Malayan campaign of World War II.[1] Heenan was reportedly killed by his wardens while in custody during the Battle of Singapore. According to Heenan's biographer, Peter Elphick, these events were suppressed by British Commonwealth military censors.[2]

Early life

Heenan's mother, Anne Stanley (born 1882), was not married at the time of her son's birth at Reefton, New Zealand. His birth certificate recorded her maiden name as his surname, and did not include any information about his father.[3] Heenan's illegitimacy would have carried a great social stigma in western society, during the early part of the 20th century. A year later, both mother and son moved to Burma with a mining engineer named George Charles Heenan (born 1855). The older Heenan is described by some sources as an Irish republican,[4] although he seems to have had a long association with New Zealand, including selection for a regional representative cricket team in 1882–83.[5] There is no conclusive evidence that George Heenan was Patrick's father, or that George and Anne ever married. However, Patrick was baptised in Burma as a Roman Catholic, with the surname Heenan.[6] George Heenan died at Pauk, Burma in 1912. Patrick's mother then worked as a governess for a family named Carroll.[7]

In 1922, the Carrolls moved to England, and Anne Stanley went with them. Mrs Carroll died a few years later, and Bernard Carroll, who was an accountant, married Anne.[8] From 1923 to 1926, Patrick was a boarder at Sevenoaks School in Kent, and in 1927 proceeded to Cheltenham College, as a day boy, in a stream of students preparing for military careers.[9] Although he was then 16 years old, at Cheltenham he was put in classes with pupils as young as 13.

Accounts of his time at Sevenoaks and Cheltenham show Heenan to have been a poor student and — in the words of the ODNB — a "gloomy, resentful misfit disliked by other pupils".[10] He nevertheless excelled at sports, especially boxing, due largely to his impressive physique.[11] According to Elphick, Heenan was unpopular with other students at Cheltenham and was often in trouble with school authorities. Although he joined the Officers Training Corps (OTC) at Cheltenham, Heenan did not gain any formal qualifications;[12] because of this, he was not able to be admitted to British Army officer training, when he left school at the age of 19. Heenan instead joined Steel Brothers, a trading company with interests in Asia.

Military career

In the early 1930s, Heenan applied for the Army Supplementary Reserve, the only way he could become an officer without formal qualifications. According to Elphick, had Heenan's illegitimacy been known, it would have prevented him becoming an officer. He was able to join the reserve by presenting his baptism certificate, along with a certificate signed by his school headmaster, stating that Heenan was capable of performing the duties of an officer. This was endorsed by the commander of Cheltenham's OTC. In 1932, he was placed on the Supplementary Reserve.[citation needed]

In 1935, Heenan was commissioned into the British Army, with the service number 547AI.[13] His address at this time was recorded as Cheam, Surrey, England. He was put on the Indian Army's Unattached List, and was sent to India. After six months' training with a British regiment, Heenan was not accepted by any Indian Army regiments. He had to do an additional six months with another British regiment before being accepted by the 16th Punjab Regiment. He reportedly performed well in a skirmish on the North-West Frontier, but was later transferred to the Indian Army Service Corps. According to Elphick, this was a device commonly used to get unsatisfactory officers away from prestigious frontline regiments.[14] However, Heenan later returned to the 16th Punjabs, but to a different battalion.[citation needed] In 1938–39, Heenan took a six-month "long leave" (an Indian Army tradition) in Japan.[citation needed]

During 1941, as fears of a Japanese invasion of Southeast Asia grew, Heenan's unit was sent to Malaya. He was transferred to an Indian Army air liaison unit and was sent to Singapore for training. Following the completion of air liaison training, Heenan was stationed at Alor Star, in Kedah, northern Malaya, in June 1941.[15] It was in this area that most of the British RAF, Royal Australian Air Force and Royal New Zealand Air Force squadrons in Malaya were based.[citation needed]

Circa 8 February 1941. Bristol Blenheim Mark I bombers of No. 62 Squadron RAF lined up at Tengah, Singapore, before flying north to their new base at Alor Star, Kedah, Malaya. Heenan was attached to the squadron at Alor Star in late 1941.

Japanese forces invaded Thailand and Malaya on 8 December. Their air raids were assisted by radio transmissions made by Heenan.[16] Among other espionage equipment, he reportedly had a morse code transmitter operated by an alphanumeric keyboard — similar to a Traeger Transceiver — which was disguised as a typewriter.[citation needed]

By 10 December, the Japanese had destroyed most of the Allied aircraft in northern Malaya. That same day, according to Elphick, Heenan was caught "almost in the act" and was arrested. Heenan was sent to Singapore, and was reportedly court-martialled in January 1942.[17] He does not seem to have been formally sentenced, but the normal sentence for treason by British officers was death.[citation needed]

Heenan remained in custody at Singapore for several weeks. The Japanese gradually drove the Allies out of Malaya, and on 8 February they invaded Singapore Island. Within days, it became clear that the battle was being won by the Japanese. In the words of journalist and author Lynette Silver (whose main source is Elphick):

By February 13[,] Heenan had become very cocky, taunting his guards ... that he would soon be free and they would be prisoners. It appears that ... British military police took matters into their own hands. After cards were cut to decide who would ... [kill] Heenan, it is alleged he was taken to the dockside, where a sergeant executed him with a single pistol shot to the back of the head. The body was then dumped in the harbour.[18]

Elphick also states that the site of Heenan's shooting was Keppel Harbour.[19]

Effects and aftermath

Military historian Brian P. Farrell believes that Heenan could not have done decisive damage to the Allies, but he probably cost No. 62 Squadron some personnel and aircraft.[20] Elphick suggests that the British Commonwealth air forces would have been defeated without Heenan's help: their aircraft in Malaya were inadequate compared to the Japanese, and airfields in northern Malaya had been located in undefensible positions. Elphick added that Heenan "...must have passed on much helpful information pre-war and he pushed the rate of aircraft destruction along a bit after the war began."[21] Elphick also says that word of Heenan's actions spread quickly among British Commonwealth officers and had a significant effect on morale.[citation needed]

By 1998, the families of other personnel listed on the Commonwealth War Graves Commission World War II memorial at Kranji War Cemetery, Singapore, were requesting the removal of Heenan's name.[22] His date of death on the memorial, February 15, 1942, was reportedly a standard date assigned to all Commonwealth personnel officially listed as missing during the Battle of Singapore.[23] In fact his date of death listed by the CWGC is 15 February 1944.[24]

See also

External links


  1. Peter Elphick, 2001, "Cover-ups and the Singapore Traitor Affair". (Access date: 6 March 2007.)
    See also: Brian P. Farrell, 2005, The Defence and Fall of Singapore 1940–1942, Ch. 7, n.19 Farrell states: "The paper trail [in relation to Heenan] in archival records is PRO, WO172/18, Malaya Command War Diary Appendix Z.1, 10 December 1941; WO172/33, III Indian Corps War Diary, 12, 19, 23–24 December 1941;CAB106/53, 11th Indian Division history, ch. 4; CAB106/86, Maltby Despatch; IWM, Wild Papers, 66/227/1, Wild notes." (Access date: 6 March 2007.)
  2. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  3. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  4. Roger T. Stearn, 2004, "Heenan, Patrick Stanley Vaughan (1910–1942), army officer and traitor", Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (ODNB; subscription required). Access date: 10 September 2007.
  5., 2007, "George Heenan". Access date: 21 September 2007.
  6. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  7. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  8. ODNB, Ibid.
  9. ODNB, Ibid.
  10. ODNB, Ibid.
  11. ODNB, Ibid; Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  12. ODNB, Ibid.
  13. Commonwealth War Graves Commission, "Casualty Details HEENAN, PATRICK STANLEY VAUGHAN". Access date: 6 March 2007.
  14. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  15. Farrell, Ibid.
  16. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  17. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  18. Lynette Silver, 1997, "Scapegoats for the Bloody Empire" (from Edward Docker & Lynette Silver [eds], Fabulous Furphies — 10 Great Myths from Australia's Past, Sally Milner Publishing, [ISBN 1863511849]; published online by Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2002. Access date: 6 March 2007.
  19. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  20. Farrell, Ibid.
  21. Elphick, 2001, Ibid.
  22. Alec Marsh, "Japanese spy listed on British war memorial". (Daily Telegraph [UK], 13 April 1998.) Access date: 6 March 2007.
  23. Marsh, 1998, Ibid.
  24. Heenan, Patrick Stanley Vaughan


  • Peter Elphick & Michael Smith, 1994, Odd Man Out, the Story of the Singapore Traitor Trafalgar Square (Second edition) (ISBN 9780340617014)
  • Lynette Silver, 1997, "Scapegoats for the Bloody Empire" (from Edward Docker & Lynette Silver [eds], Fabulous Furphies — 10 Great Myths from Australia's Past, Sally Milner Publishing, [ISBN 1863511849, Burra Creek, NSW, Australia]; published online by Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2002)
  • Peter Elphick, 2001, "Cover-ups and the Singapore Traitor Affair" (Fall of Singapore 60th Anniversary Conference, published online by Four Corners, Australian Broadcasting Corporation, 2002)
  • Alan Warren, 2002, Singapore 1942, Britain’s Greatest Defeat, Talisman (Singapore).
  • Roger T. Stearn, 2004, "Heenan, Patrick Stanley Vaughan (1910–1942), army officer and traitor" (Oxford Dictionary of National Biography Subscription required.)
  • Brian P. Farrell, 2005, The Defence and Fall of Singapore 1940–1942, Tempus Publishing (Stroud, Gloucs, UK)

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