Operation Jaywick & MV Krait

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Date: 1942 to 1943
Surnames/tags: australia world_war_II
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Operation Jaywick was the official name given to a clandestine and daring commando raid on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour during the Second World War. The raid was launched from the MV Krait. The plan was the 'brainchild' of 28 year-old British officer, Captain Ivan Lyon, and Australian master mariner, Bill Reynolds. Lyon was a Gordon Highlanders officer seconded to the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB), a joint Australian, British, Dutch and United States intelligence and special operations agency. Section A of the AIB was Special Operations Australia (SOA), comprising several British SOE officers who had escaped from Japanese-occupied Singapore. Major Jock Campbell, of the King’s Own Scottish Borderers and a member of the AIB, helped develop and strategise the plan with Ivan Lyon. In a sentence, the plan developed was to infiltrate Singapore harbour in collapsible two-man kayaks (called folboats) and 'blow-up' as much Japanese shipping as possible.[1]

the ship

MV Krait

The motor vessel Krait, chosen as the ideal ship for the venture, was a commandeered 21.3 metre (70 feet) wooden-hulled Japanese coastal fishing boat, the Kohfuku Maru 幸福丸. With a beam of 3.35 metres (11 feet) and a draught of 1.5 metres (4.9 feet) it would be ideal for island-hoping and 'hiding' in low water amongst mangroves. Top-speed was seven knots. Initially powered by an unreliable Deutz engine, at Cairns Krait received a new L Gardner & Sons Ltd 6LW diesel engine. Reynolds, a 61 year-old civilian, had used the ship to evacuate refugees from Singapore earlier in 1942, to India.

After the mission, the Krait was delivered by a reduced crew to Darwin, to the Northern Territory division of Special Operations Australia. As HMAS Krait, she continued to be used by SOA amongst the islands to Australia's north and was present at Ambon Island during the surrender of the Japanese forces.

Krait was dedicated as a war memorial in 1964 and purchased by the Australian War Memorial in 1985; whereupon the AWM have since 'loaned' her to the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney.[1] The Krait – named for a small but deadly Indian snake – commenced a tradition, maintained to this day, in which Australian commando vessels are named after venomous snakes.[2]

the team

the Z Force team back in Australia (left to right):
Back row: M Berryman, F Marsh, A Jones, A Huston
Middle row: A Crilly, K Cain, J McDowell, H Young, W Falls, R Morris
Front row: H Carse, D Davidson, I Lyon, Jock Campbell, R Page

In June 1942, a commando unit was formed as Z Special Unit (more commonly known as Z Force), with personnel primarily drawn from the Australian Army and Royal Australian Navy:[1]

Major Ivan Lyon (1915-44), promoted from Captain during the early stages of the mission, mission commander, canoeist
Lieutenant Hubert 'Ted' Carse (1901-70), Krait's captain from Cairns
Lieutenant Donald Davidson (1908-44), recruited at Melbourne, canoeist
Lieutenant Robert 'Bob' Page (1920-45), Army lieutenant and medical student, joined at Cairns, canoeist
Bill Reynolds (1882-1944), Krait's captain until Cairns January 1943
Leading Seaman Kevin 'Cobber' Cain (1915-80), joined at Brisbane, coxswain
Corporal Andrew 'Pancake' Crilly (1913-63), joined at Cairns, cook and mechanic
Leading Stoker James 'Paddy' McDowell (1900-64), joined at Brisbane, engineer
temporary Sergeant Ron 'Taffy' Morris (1915-), 'joined' at the very beginning, medic
Leading Telegraphist Horace 'Horrie' Young (1921-2011), joined at Cairns, radioman
Able Seaman Mostyn 'Moss' Berryman (1923-), recruited at Melbourne, reserve canoeist
Able Seaman Walter 'Poppa' Falls (1920-45), recruited at Melbourne, partnered Lieutenant Davidson in a folboat
Able Seaman Andrew 'Happy' Huston (1923-44), recruited at Melbourne, partnered Major Lyon in a folboat
Able Seaman Arthur 'Joe' Jones (1922-2013), recruited at Melbourne, helmsman, partnered Lieutenant Page in a folboat
Able Seaman Fred 'Boof' Marsh (1924-45), recruited at Melbourne, reserve canoeist

Three members of Z Force were appointed Companions of the Distinguished Service Order, and others were awarded four Distinguished Service Medals, two Military Medals, and five were Mentioned in Despatches.[3]

the weapons

applying skin dye to look 'Asiatic'

The mission was certainly well-armed, and carried sufficient ammunition for their weapons:[2]

Lewis machine guns x 2
Bren machine guns x 2
Sten submachine guns x 8
Owen submachine guns x 8
Smith & Wesson .38 revolvers x 14
hand grenades x 200
stabbing knives
throwing knives
jungle parangs (machete)
limpet magnetic mines x 45
plastic explosive x 70 kgs (150 lbs)

the mission

route of the Krait

The first members of the commando team were selected from volunteers during assessment at the Army Physical and Recreational Training School, Frankston, Port Phiplip Bay in July 1942. In September, six of seventeen volunteers were released and the remaining eleven joined Major Lyon and Lieutenant Davidson at Refuge Bay, a remote, inaccessible area on the Hawkesbury River, New South Wales and named 'Camp X' for the purpose. On 18th January 1943, Krait left the training camp and voyaged north, being towed into Cairns, far north Queensland, after some ten break-downs. Here the engine was replaced. From Cairns they sailed for Thursday Island, at the tip of Queensand's Cape York Peninsula. On 13th August 1943, the team sailed west from Thursday Island, for Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia, where the ship was refuelled and repairs were undertaken by the US base's submarine repair facility. The folboats only arrived from England whilst at Exmouth and were discovered to be faulty, lacking some important parts and were not according to the design that Davidson had specified. They had to undergo many on-the-spot modifications simply to make each framework fit together and then fit correctly into the outer skins (commando folboats were built in Australia from then onwards!).[2]

On 2nd September 1943, Krait left Exmouth Gulf for Singapore, arriving nearby on 24th September. As expected, Lombok Strait, between Bali and Lombok Islands, was the most difficult to traverse, being in range of searchlights from both sides and barely making one knot against the fierce current. That night, the six canoeists disembarked and encamped on a small island as their base with stores for a month. The Krait retired to spend two weeks sailing about southern Borneo, deciding to 'hide in the open' rather than in an estuary which were regularly inspected. From their island base Lyon's commandos paddled 50 kilometres (31 miles) to establish a forward base in a cave on a small island near the harbour. On the night of 26th September, they paddled into the harbour and placed limpet mines on six Japanese ships before returning to their hiding spot. In the resulting explosions, the limpet mines sank or seriously damaged six of the ships, comprising over 25,500 tons between them.[2]

The canoe teams made their own way hastily back to the base island to await recovery by Krait during the night of 2-3d October. Davidson and Falls made it on time, being the strongest paddlers, however the Krait had to make an additional visit the following night to pick up Lyon / Huston and Page / Jones. Their return to Australia was mostly uneventful, except for a tense incident in the Lombok Strait when the ship was closely approached by Japanese auxiliary minesweeper Wa-102 on patrol; however Krait was not challenged.[2]

On 19th October, the ship and crew arrived safely back at Exmouth Gulf. Such special forces missions are not only about destroying the enemy but very much about gleaning valuable intelligence for later. Jaywick proved excellent in regards to the later role. At Exmouth, each member of the team was debriefed, and debriefed, until December whence they made their way to Brisbane, Queensland, some to remain with Z Force and others to move on to other postings. Several logs and journals were mantained, being of immeasurable value to the debrief and are now held at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.[2]

the damage and the repercussions

folboat canvas-covered collapsible kayak
Shosei Maru, 5,698 ton tanker, damaged, Lyon and Huston (currents prevented further access to ships at the Examination Anchorage).
Nichiren Maru, 5,460 ton freighter, damaged, Davidson and Falls (eastern end of Keppel Harbour and the Roads).
Arare Maru, 2,770 ton freighter, sunk and later salvaged, Davidson and Falls.
Kizan Maru, 5,071 ton freighter, sunk, Page and Jones (Pulau Bukum and the western end of Keppel Harbour).
Hakusan Maru, 4,300 ton freighter, damaged, Page and Jones.
Hakusan Maru, 2,197 ton freighter, sunk, Page and Jones.
It has often been claimed that the commandos sank the large high-speed tanker Shinkoku Maru, however, Japanese records clearly indicate that the ship left Truk, in the Caroline Islands on the day of the attack.[1]

The raid took the Japanese authorities in Singapore totally by surprise; they simply had not suspected such an attack from as far away as Australia, and assumed it was the work of local saboteurs. In their efforts to uncover the perpetrators, Japanese 'secret police' made a wave of arrests, applying torture and executions, to local Chinese and Malays, as well as interned POWs and European civilians.[1]

MV Krait, re-furbished

Operation Rimau

Operation Jaywick was followed by Operation Rimau (Malay for tiger) on 10-16th October 1944, this time using Australian-built Hoehn MKIII folboats; an operation that failed to sink any shipping and in which most of the commandos died of wounds (four) or illness (three), or were either killed in action (four) or captured and executed (ten). The last-mentioned ten commandos were transported to Outram Road Gaol in Singapore after capture by the Japanese, and were tried for espionage in a Japanese military court and executed by beheading on 7th July 1945. The major difference between the two operations was that of insertion: for Jaywick it was the Krait, but for Rimau it was by RAN submarine.[4]

It was during the final meeting of the Jaywick team in Brisbane in December 1943 that Lyon announced the second mission. He spoke individually with each team member, asking whether they would be interested. Davidson, Page, Falls, Huston and Marsh said 'Yes' to joining Lyon.

The 23 members of the Operation Rimau team were, including six who were veterans of Jaywick (indicated with asterisks):

Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Lyon DSO (1915-44), killed in action*
Lieutenant Commander Donald Montague Noel Davidson DSO (1908-44), died of wounds*
Major Reginald Ingleton, RM, executed
Captain Robert Charles Page DSO (1920-45), executed*
Lieutenant Bruno Reymond, RANR, missing in action presumed drowned
Lieutenant Walter Carey – conducting officer, executed
Lieutenant Robert Ross, killed in action
Lieutenant Albert Sargent, executed
Lieutenant Walter Chapman – conducting officer, evacuated by submarine
Sub-Lieutenant Gregor Riggs, RNVR, killed in action
Warrant Officer Alfred Warren, executed
Warrant Officer Jeffrey Willersdorf – maintenance technician, died of wounds
Sergeant Colin Cameron – maintenance technician, killed in action
Sergeant David Gooley – maintenance technician, executed
Corporal Archie Campbell, died of wounds
Corporal Colin Craft – signaller, missing in action presumed drowned
Corporal Roland Fletcher – infantry and maintenance, executed
Corporal Hugo Pace – infantry and maintenance, died of starvation in captivity
Corporal Clair Stewart – signaller, executed
Lance Corporal John Hardy – infantry and maintenance, executed
Able Seaman Walter Gordon Falls DSM (1920-45), executed*
Able Seaman Andrew William George Huston DSM (1923-44), evaded capture but died of illness*
Able Seaman Frederick Walter Lota Marsh (1924-45), died of malaria in captivity*
Private Douglas Warne – infantry and maintenance, died of wounds received in captivity


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 Wikipedia: Operation Jaywick; accessed 29 Oct 2019
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 McPhedran, Ian. The Mighty Krait: The Little Boat that Pulled Off Australia's Most Daring Commando Raid of WWII. HarperCollins, Sydney NSW, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4607-5564 8
  3. Australian War Memorial personnel records
  4. Wikipedia: Operation Rimau; accessed 29 Oct 2019

Further reading

  • McPhedran, Ian. The Mighty Krait: The Little Boat that Pulled Off Australia's Most Daring Commando Raid of WWII. HarperCollins, Sydney NSW, 2018. ISBN 978-1-4607-5564 8.
  • Silver, Lynette Ramsay. Krait: The Fishing Boat that Went to War. Cultured Lotus, 2001. ISBN 981-04-3675-0.

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