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Seton, Carden Wyndham (1901–1970)

by Shirley Lithgow

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

Carden Wyndham Seton (1901-1970), coastwatcher, was born on 14 June 1901 at Wellingrove station, near Glen Innes, New South Wales, tenth child of Leonard Miles Cariston Seton, an English-born grazier, and his Australian-born wife Eleanor, née Wyndham. Educated at New England Grammar School, Armidale, Carden worked as a wool-presser. In 1927 he travelled to Shortland Island, British Solomon Islands Protectorate, to manage Lofung plantation at Faisi for Burns, Philp & Co. Ltd. On 21 May 1929 he married Kate Walker Cameron with Presbyterian forms at Matheson, New South Wales.

Moving from Faisi to Sydney when the Japanese invaded the Solomons, Seton enlisted in the Australian Imperial Force on 9 March 1942. In September he embarked with the 30th Employment Company for Port Moresby. Within twelve days of his arrival he was sent to Brisbane. His intimate knowledge of the Solomon Islands led him to be seconded on 5 October (as acting sergeant) to the Allied Intelligence Bureau which co-ordinated intelligence-gathering and subversive activities behind enemy lines in the South-West Pacific Area.

On 20 October Seton was landed by an American submarine on enemy-occupied Choiseul Island to join the network of coastwatchers in the islands to the north-east of Australia. He and Lieutenant (Sir) Alexander Waddell, Royal Australian Naval Volunteer Reserve, established a radio station overlooking Bougainville Strait. Their reports on Japanese naval and air traffic assisted American forces during the battle for Guadalcanal. They also contributed to the rescue of many allied pilots, twenty-three of them on Choiseul.

Seton was attached to 'M' Special Unit in May 1943. Bearded, 6 ft 2 in (188 cm) tall and weighing about 14 stone (89 kg), he was formidable in appearance. The local scouts, whom he organized, trained and led, inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy and destroyed much of their equipment. Seton's 'fearless and aggressive spirit', and his success in combat, helped to keep local inhabitants loyal to the Allies. He won the Distinguished Conduct Medal. On 14 October he was commissioned acting lieutenant. From January 1944 he pinpointed targets for a number of successful dive-bombing raids, as a result of which Choiseul Bay ceased to be an important enemy base.

In March 1944 Seton returned to Brisbane. Four months later he was posted to New Britain where he conducted guerrilla operations against enemy outposts until March 1945. Judged 'eminently suited to lead a band of killers', he was sent in May to relieve Lieutenant Paul Mason as guerrilla leader in the Kieta area of Bougainville. In June he was promoted captain. During his time on Bougainville he was responsible for killing 708 Japanese.

Placed on the Reserve of Officers on 9 December 1945, Seton returned to Choiseul in the following year to run Lutie plantation at the mouth of the Vurulata River. He was a member (1947-49) of the B.S.I.P. Advisory Council. Back in Queensland from 1955, he farmed at Upper Mount Gravatt, worked for a shearing co-operative, Grazcos Ltd, at Longreach for two years and moved to Brisbane in the mid-1960s. He died of coronary thrombosis on 24 October 1970 at Slacks Creek and was cremated with Anglican rites. His wife and their two sons survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • G. Long, The Final Campaigns (Canb, 1963)
  • E. Feldt, The Coast Watchers (Syd, 1967)
  • W. Lord, Lonely Vigil (NY, 1977)
  • G. H. Gill, Royal Australian Navy 1942-1945 (Canb, 1985)
  • private information.

Citation details

Shirley Lithgow, 'Seton, Carden Wyndham (1901–1970)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/seton-carden-wyndham-11659/text20829, published in hardcopy 2002, accessed online 22 July 2014.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 16, (MUP), 2002

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