THE KRAIT
VESSEL USED BY "Z" SPECIAL UNIT
DURING WW2

 

In 1942 some ambitious officers of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) wanted to strike the Japanese in their secure strongholds.   28 year old Captain Ivan Lyon of the Gordon Highlanders teamed up with 61 year old Australian Bill Reynolds and hatched a plan to attack the Japanese in Singapore harbour where they would launch collapsible canoes carrying commandos who would attach limpet mines to the Japanese shipping. 

It was considered too difficult to sneak into Singapore Harbour from the west, hence Special Operations Executive (SOE) decided to send Lyon to Australia to develop a plan to come from the south east. 

Lyon was given personal introductions by General Wavell to some of Wavell's former British colleagues in Australia including The Governor of Victoria, Sir Winston Joseph Dugan and the Governor-General Lord Gowrie. He was also apparently given an introduction to General Douglas MacArthur.

Lyon reported to General Gordon Bennett when he arrived in Fremantle. Bennett sent Lyon to Melbourne to Lieutenant Colonel G.S. Mott, Chief of the Services Reconnaissance Department in Melbourne. Mott also apparently introduced Lyon to two senior United States Intelligence Officers, who showed no interest in Lyon's ambitious plan.

On 17 July 1942, Lord Gowrie arranged for Lyon to meet Commander R.B.M. Long, the Director of Naval Intelligence in Melbourne. Commander Long was the established SOE contact in Australia. Long recommended Lyon's plan to Admiral Royle and the Naval Board. Royle reluctantly accepted the plan. 

Lyon's idea to attack Singapore was eventually taken up as Operation Jaywick under the control of Lt. Col. Mott.

William "Bill" Roy Reynolds owned a battered Japanese wooden coastal vessel called the Kofuku Maru, in which he used to take scores of refugees out of Sumatra. It had previously been used as a fish carrier. Reynolds sailed the Krait from Malaya to Colombo. The Krait was then shipped to Australia as deck cargo from India. Reynolds later renamed the vessel the Krait after a small but highly venomous Asian snake. The Krait was about 21.3 metres long by 3.3 metres wide and had a maximum speed of about six and a half knots with a range of 8,000 miles. Reynolds was in charge of the Krait while she was in Australian waters.

The Operation was deferred for technical reasons and then abandoned in early 1943 as it was considered not worth the equipment and personnel needed.

Acting Lieutenant Emerson-Elliott, Commander Long's personal assistant, had been involved in the original capture of the Kofuku Maru (Krait) in December 1941. Emerson Elliott located a spare engine for the Krait in Tasmania which then made the Operation feasible again.

Commander Long selected Sub-Lieutenant Hubert Edward "Ted" Carse, RANVR as the Navigator for the Krait. Naval Intelligence Division (NID) selected a mixed crew of navy and army personnel as follows:-

M.M. Berryman, AB RAN (PA2717)
K.P. Cain, L/S, RAN (B1506)
H.E. Carse, Lt. RANVR
A. Crilley, Cpl. (QX19907)
D.M.N. Davidson, Lt., RNVR
W.G. Falls, A/S, RAN (S6503)
A.W. Huston, A/B, RAN (B3312)
A.M.W. Jones, A/B, RAN (F3383)
IVAN. Lyon, Major, (VB66175)
F.W. Marsh, A/B, RAN (B3666)
J.P. McDowell, StkR., RN (B2275)
R.G. Morris, Cpl., RAMC
R.C. Page, Lt. (NX19158)
H.S. Young, Tel., RAN (S3428)

In early September 1942, the members of Operation Jaywick trained at Camp Z, a secret training camp at Refuge Bay north of Sydney.

Lt. Col. Mott decided to test the effectiveness of the plan by raiding a tightly guarded allied port.  He mentioned the idea to Lieutenant Sam Carey, of the AIF, who chose Townsville for the attack. On 20 June 1943 five canoes crewed by two men each, made their "attack" (Operation Scorpion) on vessels in Townsville Harbour

The Krait left Thursday Island on 13 August 1943 arriving at the US base at Exmouth Gulf where they refuelled and carried out repairs.

On 2 September 1943, Krait eventually sailed from Exmouth Gulf headed for the South China Sea through Lombok Strait. Ivan Lyons led a team of four British and 11 Australians. The Australians were mostly Naval ratings. On the evening of 26/27 September 1943, 3 officers and 3 ratings set off in three frail rubber and canvas folboat canoes. They attached limpet mines to a number of vessels in Singapore Harbour. They ended up sinking or damaging approximately 39,000 tons of Japanese merchant shipping. The 6 members of the raiding party estimated that they had sunk one ship and sank or badly damaged six others. US Intelligence was able to determine that the "Kizan Maru" (5007 tons) and the "Hakusan Maru" (2,197 tons). This was confirmed through agent reports, cryptanalysis, and interrogation of POW's. Japanese sources indicated that four ships were sunk or badly damaged with some minor damage to others.

The "Taisyo Maru" and the tanker "Sinkoku Maru" (10,00 tons) were two of the other ships that they had attached their limpet mines to. The "Taisyo Maru" was claimed as a probably sinking by the men, but it was able to be repaired and was returned to service. The men claimed that they had only damaged the "Sinkoku Maru". Some press reports had incorrectly indicated that they had sunk the "Sinkoku Maru".

The men in the three canoes lingered for a while to watch the devastating outcome of their surprise attack, before they paddled south for almost 50 miles to meet up again with the Krait on 2 October 1943.

The Japanese were not aware that Singapore Harbour had been attacked by Allied "Commandoes". They blamed the incident on local saboteurs led by some Europeans. They increased their security and arrested, tortured and killed some local residents.

The Krait arrived back in Exmouth Gulf on 19 October 1943. They had a close shave in Lombok Strait when they were approached by a Japanese patrol boat. Fortunately they were not challenged by the patrol boat.

Mott did not get involved in the final implementation of the raid as he had been sacked by then and returned to England.

Some sources have suggested that Lyon's wife and son were in Singapore as prisoners of the Japanese at the time that Lyons and his crew had attacked Singapore Harbour. In fact, they they had been captured while travelling on the "Nankin" to India to join Lyon by the German raider "Thor". They were then sent on a supply ship to Japan. NID became aware of this news in December 1942 via prisoners from the "Ramses". Lyon was advised of his family's demise.

 

"Z" Special Unit Commandos invade Townsville
Operation "Scorpion"

 


 

Subject:    Z Special Force
Date:           Thu, 21 Jun 2001 00:08:11 +1000
From:          "sharon philp" <philpsharon@hotmail.com>

Hello,

I have been searching through various sites looking for information on (my great uncle) Kevin Caine nicked name Cobber Caine, who was in the Z Special Force and was on the Krait. He also was on This Is Your Life around 1979, 80.

His best mate was a man called Patty who was also on the Krait with him. 

If you have any information no matter how small , or of a website with some  information on him, it would be greatly appreciated.

Thankyou for your time

Sharon Philp

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

"'War By Stealth - Australians and the Allied Intelligence Bureau 1942-1945" (Melbourne University Press, 1996)
by Alan Powell's

"Silent Feet - The History of "Z" Special Operations 1942 - 1945"
by G.B. Courtney, MBE, MC

"I Didn't Know That"
"Cairns and Districts, Tully to Cape York, 1939-1946,
Service Personnel and Civilians"
By Vera Bradley (1943 AAMWS)

"The History of Townsville Harbour 1864 - 1979"
By H.J. Taylor

"The Intrigue Master - Commander Long and Naval Intelligence in Australia, 1913 - 1945"
by Barbara Winter

 

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This page first produced 13 February 2003

This page last updated 14 January 2015