Operation Jaywick and HMAS Krait: 1943

 Operation Jaywick and HMAS Krait

 A remarkable raid, called Operation Jaywick, culminated on the night of 26/27 September 1943, 64 years ago, when six men in three folboat canoes attacked ships in Keppel Harbour, Singapore. They attached limpet mines to seven Japanese ships, sinking two and damaging five others. Facing certain destruction in the event of discovery, the humble Krait dropped the canoeists within paddling distance of their target and brought them safely home.

krait
The Krait, in her secret Refuge Bay (off Broken Bay) training site.

A larger force of 23 attempted to replicate the raid a year later, in Operation Rimau, using the submarine HMS Porpoise as transport. The entire commando force, including five Jaywick veterans, was either killed or captured. Then the Japanese beheaded all ten survivors on 7 July 1945, a few weeks before the war ended.

Krait started her life about 1934 as the Kofuko Maru (aka Koh Fuku Maru), a Japanese fishing vessel. HMAS Goulburn captured her off Singapore on 11 December 1941 and the boat was used initially to rescue survivors from ships sunk off Sumatra. Later, she evacuated refugees to India. Brought to Australia as deck cargo in December 1942, she was earmarked for the Singapore raid but the whole project was cancelled when her German engine repeatedly broke down. Undaunted, LEUT Emmerson-Elliot, who had been involved in the Krait‘s original capture and evacuation in 1941, commandeered a diesel engine from a Tasmanian sawmill and, after a hurried refit, the Services Reconnaissance Department (Z Special Unit) reactivated the project.

jaywick
Z Special Unit personnel launch a training kayak at Refuge Bay.

A 20 June 1943 dummy run on Townsville Harbour’s “tightly guarded” shipping incurred the wrathful displeasure of the authorities when they found limpets on ten ships the next day. Then, under LEUT H.E. Carse RANVR, Krait departed Cairns on 8 August 1943 for Exmouth, WA, to embark the special folboat canoes that had been shipped out from the UK. Carrying a total of 14 men, including the British Jaywick commander, Maj Ivan Lyon, Krait sailed from Exmouth 2 September 1943, bound for the Lombok Strait and Singapore.

op-jaywick
The track of the raiders from Cairns.

Dodging active Japanese patrols, the canoeists penetrated Keppel Harbour, then paddled back more than 50 miles to join up again with Krait on 2/3 October. All returned safely to Exmouth on 19 October 1943. Krait’s valorous band comprised:

LEUT H.E. Carse RANVR (CO, Krait) Maj I. Lyon (Operation Commander), LEUT D.M.N. Davidson RNVR, Capt R. Page (AIF),
LSEA K.P. Cain, LTEL H. Young, Cpl R.G. Morris, Cpl A. Crilley,
ME J. P. McDowell, ABSEA M.M. Berryman, ABSEA W.G. Falls, ABSEA A.W Huston, ABSEA A.M.W. Jones and ABSEA F.W. Marsh.

Commissioned “HMAS Krait” (tender to Moreton) 4 April 1944, the vessel is 21.33 x 3.35 x 1.5 metres and displaces 35 tons. Her 150 hp Gardner 6L3 diesel engine could drive her at 6.5 knots for more than 7000 miles. In Operation Jaywick, Krait sailed 5000 miles in 48 days, including 33 days deep inside hostile enemy waters.

Krait is presently preserved as a floating exhibit in the Australian National Maritime Museum, Darling Harbour, Sydney.


Leave a Reply