Tokuzo Sonobe was an unusual case due to the location where he was arrested and his Catholicism. He was born in Aichi Prefecture in 1892 and moved to the then Condominium of New Hebrides sometime in the 1910s/1920s, where he married a Tonkinese woman and fathered five children. At the time of his arrest in Port Vila on 8 December 1941, he was a widower and working as a carpenter. Sonobe transferred to Australia on the Morinda in January 1942 and initially was interned in Hay. He was taken to hospital for a day shortly after and in February 1943 was transferred to 114 Australian General Hospital. Upon release in May 1943 he was interned at Liverpool. Two months later, he was transferred to Loveday, where he remained at the cessation of hostilities. On 24 January 1946, Sonobe submitted a petition asking to be repatriated to New Hebrides, where he was needed to look after two of his children. In his letter, he indicated that one child was married and two were working. The Department of External Affairs contacted the British Resident Commissioner on 6 February about the possibility of Sonobe being repatriated to the New Hebrides in order to look after his children. The Commissioner replied on the 19 February that the two children were being cared for by the Catholic Mission and would remain under its care until they were independent or were repatriated to Japan. The Commissioner opposed Sonobe’s repatriation to the New Hebrides on the basis that it would ‘set a precedent’.
Sonobe was repatriated to Japan on board the Koei-maru, which left Port Melbourne on 21 February 1946.
Text by Rowena Ward
NAA: MP1103/1, HJ109225 Prisoners of War/ Internee: Sonobe, Tokuzo; Date of Birth – 2 August 1892, Nationality – Japanese.
NAA: A1066 IC45/1/11/5 Internees in Australia – Japanese - Repatriation