Guide to the papers of Sir William Webb
Title: Papers of Sir William Webb.
Date range: 1946-1948.
Reference number: 3DRL/2481.
Extent: 1.5 shelf metres (8 boxes, 65 albums and 3 folios).
Location: Private Records collection, Research Centre, Australian War Memorial.
Abstract: The papers in the Webb collection document his involvement and contribution to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. They comprise of draft judgements, case notes, correspondence relating to the function of the tribunal, letters from Japanese citizens with translations and reports relating to the function and the jurisdiction of the tribunal. Correspondents include General Douglas MacArthur, Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers and the Rt Hon Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of Australia.
Provenance: The papers of Sir William Webb were transferred from the Attorney General's Department, to the Australian War Memorial in October 1958. The records were stored in the former chambers of Sir William Webb at the High Court in Sydney.
Restrictions on use: Copyright of materials described in this guide is governed by copyright law in Australia. For further information contact the Curator of Private Records, Research Centre.
Preferred citation: Guide to the papers of Sir William Webb, Australian War Memorial, 3DRL/2481.
- F07480 - War crimes trials at the International Military Tribunal Far East. Film, 4 min 3 sec, of war criminal General Hideki Tojo leading defendants from bus. President of the Court, Honourable Sir William Webb, Australia. Chief of Council Joseph B Keenan, USA, in courtroom. Former puppet Emperor for Manchuria Henry Pu Yi, in witness box.
- S00013 - International Military Tribunal War Crimes Trial, Japan: findings and sentences handed down 12 November 1948 by the President of the International Military Tribunal, Chief Justice William Webb. Sound disc, 2 hr 30 min.
- Records of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East (ref. AWM83)
- Records of the Adjutant General dealing with trials of war criminals (ref. AWM166)
- Records of war crimes enquiries and trials, 1939 - 45 war (ref. AWM226)
- Written records, 1939 - 45 war (ref AWM54 item 1010/-)
- Personal correspondence, Sir William Webb, as President of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. Personal - entertainment. Located at National Archives of Australia.
- Fact Sheet 61, World War II War Crimes, National Archives of Australia,http://www.naa.gov.au/publications/fact_sheets/fs61.html
- National Archives of Australia, Person notes for person CP 333
- Sissons D, Sources of Australian Investigations into Japanese war crimes in the pacific, Journal of the Australian War Memorial, Issue 30, April 1997,/journal/j30/sissons.htm
- International law
- War crimes
- War Criminals
William Flood Webb was born in Brisbane, Queensland on 21 January 1887. He attended St Mary's Convent School in Warwick, Queensland where he excelled academically. Webb was ranked second in the Queensland Public Service examination and began working in the Home Secretary's Department on 3 February 1904. He gained a law degree from the University of Queensland and passed the bar examination on 20 May 1913 with an exceptionally high average of 71.5 per cent. Webb was admitted to the Queensland Bar on 4 June 1913.
Webb served as Crown Solicitor and Secretary of the Attorney-General's Department for Queensland from 1917 to 1922. During this time, he married Beatrice Agnew on the 17 March 1917 at the Sacred Heart Church, Sandgate. He was appointed as Queensland Solicitor-General from 1922 to 1925. In 1925 he was appointed as Judge to the Supreme Court of Queensland and President of the Court of Industrial Arbitration. Following this he served as Chairman of the Central Sugar Cane Prices Board from 1926 to 1942, and Chairman of the Australian Industrial Relations Council, 1942 to 1943. From 1940 to 1946 Webb succeeded as the Chief Justice for Queensland. Webb was appointed Chairman to a number of Royal Commissions which included inquiries into the Traveston Railway Disaster in 1925, transport in 1936, sugar industry in 1938, and communication censorship in 1944.
On 23 June 1943, Webb was commissioned under National Security Regulations to report on whether there had been atrocities or breaches of warfare committed by the Japanese military forces. On 15 March 1944, he presented the "Summary of the Report on Japanese Atrocities and breaches of the rules of warfare" to the Australian Government. This was the first of three commissions given to Webb between 1943 and 1945 to investigate war crimes by the Japanese. Webb visited England in 1944 to present his findings to the United Nations War Crimes Commission. In May 1946 Webb was appointed as a Justice of the High Court of Australia where he remained on the bench until his retirement in 1958. His first case was Nelungaloo Pty Ltd v. Commonwealth. For this case, he interrupted his sittings in Tokyo so that it could be heard in the Full High Court in June to July 1947.
Webb's experience in the investigation of war crimes resulted in his subsequent appointment to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in 1946 as the Australian member and also as the President of the Tribunal. The proceedings took two and a half years with judgement handed down in late 1948. On Friday 12 November 1948, Sir William Webb pronounced sentences on those whom the Tribunal had found guilty. Webb described Tribunal as the most 'important criminal trial in all history'.
Upon Webb's return to Australia, he resumed his position as Justice of the High Court of Australia. Webb sat in more than fifty important constitutional cases, including the succession of transport cases involving section 92 of the Constitution, and the second pharmaceutical benefits case in 1949. Following his retirement from the High Court in 1958, Webb chaired the Committee on Ministerial and Parliamentary Allowances in Tasmania in 1960 and in Queensland in 1962 and 1963. He also chaired the Electric Power Transmission Pty Ltd from 1958 until his death in Brisbane on 11 August in 1972. He was survived by two sons and four daughters.
Webb was created a Knight Bachelor in 1942 and Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1954. In 1967, the University of Queensland awarded him an honorary doctorate of laws, for outstanding contribution to jurisprudence. Webb died in Brisbane on 11 August 1972. His portrait by Archibald Colquhoun hangs in the High Court Building in Canberra.
1. Ritchie J , Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16: 1940-1980, Melbourne University Press, 2002.
2. Black A & C, Who's Who in Australia, 1971, 123rd Edition, Europa, London.
Scope and content note
The papers of Hon. Sir William Webb are held within the Private Records collection at the Australian War Memorial's Research Centre. They document Webb's involvement and contribution to the International Military Tribunal for the Far East during 1947 and 1948. The papers occupy 1.4 shelf metres and comprise a range of record types: draft judgements, legal briefs, records of proceedings, legal exhibits and correspondence. The Tribunal elected the Australian member, Sir William Webb, as president. The Tribunal consisted of nine, then later eleven judges from allied nations. Twenty eight major war criminals were convicted, four more than the number at Nuremberg, Germany. Oral testimony was heard from 419 witnesses but the bulk of the evidence was given in 779 affidavits and 4,336 documents. The proceedings took two and a half years and were recorded in a transcript of 49,858 pages. The judgements were handed down in late 1948, with a summary of the facts and findings of the Tribunal released on the 10 September 1945.
|Series number||Title of Series and Date|
|1||The International Military Tribunal for the Far East, 1946 - 1948|
|2||Draft judgement volumes, 1947-1948|
|3||Individual cases, 1945|
Description: This series includes papers and correspondence relating the jurisdiction, powers and authorities of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. It comprises of the rules of procedure and charter of the Tribunal, biography of judges, and indictment information. It also includes articles relating to the Nuremburg Tribunal.
|Series/Wallet||Title, date and description||Box|
|1/1||IMTFE rules for procedure February 1946 - March 1947||1|
|1/2||IMTFE Charter - proposed amendments May 1946||1|
|1/3||Biography of members of the Tribunal, Japanese defence counsel||1|
|1/4||Transcript - history of the indictment and Japanese activities. This includes history of Japanese involvement and crimes committed. Part III has some pages missing||1|
|1/5||Indictment: No. 1. Total of fifty five counts. Includes Appendices A through to E||1|
|1/6||Minutes of pre-trial meetings of Tribunal Judges, April - May 1946||1|
|1/7||Jurisdiction: opinion of Members for the United Kingdom, Canada & New Zealand||1|
|1/8||Reasons for the Judgement of the President and Member from Australia, January 1947. 2nd Copy||1|
|1/9||The final draft, memoranda to the President IMTFE relating to powers & responsibilities of the Tribunal, legal opinion, translations, July 1946 - October 1948||1|
|1/10||Correspondence between William Webb President IMTFE & Hon Justice Roling, Tribunal member for Netherlands: Including views about the charter and "the law of the case", memorandum about the conventional war crimes, covering Chinese cities; and language corrections by the Language Board||2|
|1/11||All Judges - evidence in mitigation February 1948||2|
|1/12||Prosecution document describing Japanese constitution and government and exhibit No. 102, given by Tribunal member for New Zealand 17 July 1946. Includes typescript of conclusions, the Surrender of Japan, the appointment of members of the Tribunal, rules of procedure, counsel for the accused, the indictment, the arraignment, insanity and death of the accused||2|
|1/13||The Punishment of War Crimes and the Law of Nature: A Study of the Scholastic Doctrine of the 16 and 17 centuries. Book presented to Webb by Father Peter J Herzog, Sophia University, Tokyo||2|
|1/14||Paper by W.D. Patrick, Tribunal member for United Kingdom, on "Planning" and "Conspiracy" in relation to criminal trials and specifically in relation to the IMTFE, 30 January 1948||2|
|1/15||Tokyo and Nuremburg Charters; Nuremburg rulings on appearance of witnesses; prosecution and punishment of the major war criminals of the European Axis; indictment to IMT Berlin 18 October 1945||2|
|1/16||Nuremburg article by Wright London, 15 August 1947||2|
|1/17||Rules of the International Military Tribunal, Nuremburg||2|
Description: This series comprises of Webb's two volumes of draft judgements, with his handwritten amendments. Earlier draft judgements which contain no findings of fact, only decisions on law points, are also included.
|Series/Wallet||Title, date and description||Box|
|2/1||Sir William Webb's Judgement Volume 1, revised 17 September 1948 pp 1-263||3|
|2/2||Sir William Webb's Judgment Volume II, revised 17 September 1948 pp 264-400||3|
|2/3||Sir William Webb's Judgement Volume II, revised 17 September 1948 pp 401-658||3|
|2/4||Early draft Judgement no. 2, issued November 1947. Contains no finding of fault - only decisions on points of law and outlines of possible course of the Judgement. Includes handwritten amendments||3|
|2/5||Early draft Judgement no. 1, issued 23 July 1947. Contains no finding of fault - only decisions on points of law and outlines of possible course of the Judgement. Includes handwritten amendments||3|
Description: This series includes individual case notes including those of General Tojo; other papers regarding applications made to the tribunal on matters of evidence; and general matters arising out of the conduct and administration of the Tribunal. There are also a number of exhibits presented to the tribunal including a photograph, steel production graph and map of occupied China.
|Series/Wallet||Title, date and description||Box|
|3/1||Individual Case notes: Oshima Hiroshi; Sato Kenryo; Shigemitsu Mamoru; Shimada Shigetaro; Shiratori Toshio; Suzuji Teiichi; Togo Shigenori; Tojo Hideki; & Umezu Yoshijiro||4|
|3/2||Individual Case notes: Oshima Hiroshi; Sato Kenryo; Shigemitsu Mamoru; Shimada Shigetaro; Shiratori Toshio; Suzuji Teiichi; Togo Shigenori; Tojo Hideki; & Umezu Yoshijiro||4|
|3/3||Individual cases: Mr Owen Cunningham counsel for the accused Oshima Hiroshi. Includes application for clarification of status of American Counsel for accused Oshima. Includes address delivered before American Bar Association||4|
|3/4||Okawa's case - notes arising out of application by Counsel for Okawa for postponement of proceedings against this defendant on the grounds of physical and mental condition||4|
|3/5||Individual cases: Koiso Kuniaki; Matsui Iwane; Minami Jiro; Muto Akira; Oka Takazumi||4|
|3/6||Individual cases: Hashimoto Kingoro; Kata Shunroku; Hiranuma Kiichiro; Hirota Koki; Hoshino Naoki; Itagaki Seishiro; Kaya Okinori; Kido Koichi||4|
|3/7 - 3/8||Applications made to Tribunal on the matter of evidence of the defence and prosecution and general matters arising out of the conduct and administration of the Tribunal. Papers 1 - 199||4|
|3/9 - 3/15||Applications made to Tribunal on the matter of evidence of the defence and prosecution and general matters arising out of the conduct and administration of the Tribunal. Papers 200 - 654||5|
|3/16 - 3/23||Applications made to Tribunal on the matter of evidence of the defence and prosecution and general matters arising out of the conduct and administration of the Tribunal. Papers 655 - 1737||6|
|3/24||Defendant Document #2171 Annex 1, "Table showing increase and decrease of steel-ship during the Pacific war"; Map of Pei-P'ing China Hopeh Province. N 3900-E11600/100, US Army Chief Engineer 1945||Folio/oversize|
|3/25||Defendant Document #1644 photograph||Folio/oversize|
Description: This series comprises correspondence between Webb and the Supreme Commander of Allied Powers, letters and cables between Webb and the Department of External Affairs, as well as administrative correspondence regarding the tribunal. It also includes arrangements for Webb's travel to resume duties at the High Court of Australia between June and July 1947.
|Series/Wallet||Title, date and description||Box|
|4/1||Inventory of collection.||7|
|4/2||General correspondence September 1947 - October 1948 including personal correspondence with individuals, friends and associates||7|
|4/3||Correspondence with Supreme Commander for the Allied Powers (General MacArthur ) (SCAP) February 1946 - February 1948||7|
|4/4||Miscellaneous correspondence of Sir William Webb as President of the IMTFE, 1946 -1948. Includes comments on draft judgements, correspondence with other Justices and representatives||7|
|4/5||William Webb as President IMTFE: copies of cables to and from Australia including External Affairs and other nations, October - November 1947||7|
|4/6||Letters to Sir William Webb as President IMTFE from private citizens January 1946 - May 1948||7|
|4/7||Japanese Press Reports 1946 - 1948; Cables, Tokyo-Australia Australia-Tokyo January - November 1948||7|
|4/8||Correspondence with the Rt Hon Sir John Latham, Chief Justice of Australia December 1947 - October 1948. Includes details regarding William Webb's return to Australia. December 1947 - July 1948||7|
|4/9||Papers relating to financial arrangements for Sir William, his staff and family. November 1946 - July 1948||7|
|4/10||Copies of cables relating to arrangements for Sir William's return to Australia, January 1948||7|
|4/11||Administrative correspondence relating to the Tribunal, May 1946 - November 1948||7|
|4/12||Major General of Justice I.M. Zaryanou Tribunal member from the USSR. Correspondence and memoranda January 1947 - March 1948. Japan's aggression against the USSR (Draft).||8|
|4/13||Sir William Webb's administrative correspondence relating prosecution||8|
|4/14||Administrative correspondence - personnel matters 1946 - 1948||8|
|4/15||Administrative correspondence - translation of the Judgement 26 July - 26 August 1948||8|
|4/16||Administrative correspondence relating to the Defence 1946 - 1948||8|
|4/17||Summary of Judgement, plans for release of letters and memoranda August - September 1948||8|
|4/18||IMTFE Judgement memorandum staff December 1946 - February 1947||8|
|4/19||Correspondence from Webb to Tribunal January - November 1948||8|
|4/20||Correspondence from Webb to Tribunal 1 May 1947 - 29 December 1947||8|