SPECIAL OPERATIONS AUSTRALIA (SOA)
SECTION "A" OF ALLIED INTELLIGENCE BUREAU
OPERATED UNDER THE COVER NAME OF
INTER ALLIED SERVICES DEPARTMENT (IASD OR ISD)
LATER BECAME SERVICES RECONNAISSANCE DEPARTMENT (SRD)

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visits since 7 August 2001

 

In March 1942, General Douglas MacArthur approved the establishment of an offshoot of the British Special Operation Executive (SOE) in Australia. This idea had been proposed by General Blamey. In London the new organisation was known as Special Operation Australia (SOA) but it was given a cover name in Australia, where it was known as Inter Allied Services Department (IASD). This acronym was usually shortened to ISD.

SOA was staffed with saboteurs, commandos and spies whose job it was to:-

- harass enemy lines of communications

- attack enemy shipping and small craft in harbours and rivers

- organise resistance by local inhabitants

- establish secret communications

- disseminate propaganda against the Japanese and Germans

- direct sabotage, subversion and fifth-column activity

Some SOE British Officers who had escaped to Australia from Singapore, formed the nucleus of ISD at its headquarters in Melbourne. In June 1942, the Australian service personnel in ISD were administered by a holding company known as "Z" Special Operations

One of these SOE British Officers was Major G.E. Mott who arrived in Australia from Java after it was taken over by the Japanese. Major Mott had been Head of Britisg SOE in Java. Since he was a member of the Civil Component of SOE Far Eastern Mission he was retained in Australia and as he was senior to Trappes-Lomax he became the principal advisor to the Director of Military Operations, Colonel Hopkins, on Special Operations matters.

Lt. Col. G.E. Mott established the Inter-Allied Services Department (ISD) on 17 May 1942 two months after arriving in Australia. It's headquarters was established in "Airlie", located at 260 Domain Road on the corner of Punt Road in Melbourne.

The staff at ISD at "Airlie" initially comprised:-

Lieutenant Colonel Egerton Mott, Director
Major A.E.B. Trappes-Lomax, Training and Stores
Lieutenant Commander J.J. Quere, NEI Section
Captain J. Jansen, NEI Section )Wireless Telegraphy and Communications NEI)
Major Stanley Sibb Caporn (VX43369), Administration and Personnel
Captain John Keith McCarthy (NGX258) , New Guine and Islands Sections
Captain Jacl Lester Chipper (
VX80604), New Guinea and Islands Sections
3 Secretaries (does anyone know their names?)

Before the end of May 1942, ISD Headquarters Staff had been extended to include:-

Major Allan Richard Harvey (VX108401), Stores and Equipment
Lieutenant L.G. McGowan, RNVR, Finance Director
Lieutenant Henry William Traynor, RANVR, Intelligence Section
Major Arthur Gordon Oldham (350248), Deputy Director
Major Morris Samuel Israel (VX108402), Communications Officer
Mr. H.B. Manderson, Timor Section

The Americans were not keen on the existence of an intelligence unit in their theatre of war that had been set up by the British. They also had similar problems with some independent Dutch Intelligence units. In an endeavour to bring these "foreign" units into line, the Americans established the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) in June 1942. An American Officer, Lt. Col. Allison W. Ind, was appointed as the Finance Officer in AIB. This was apparently a strategy to starve the British and Dutch Intelligence units of funds to stifle their "errant ways".

Special Operations Australia was the "dirty tricks" department of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB).  

In March 1943, relationships with AIB were so bad that SOA was restructured. The British Commanding Officer of ISD was replaced by AIB with another SOE officer from London and the group became known as Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD). Lt. Col. P.J .F. Chapman-Walker was appointed Director of SRD and given the temporary rank of Colonel. He had his offices at 39 Ackland Street, South Yarra.

In December 2002, the one surviving member of the SRD Directorate was Sir John Holland, who post WW2 formed John Holland Constructions.

A Naval Intelligence Officer acted as Liaison Officer between SRD and the Director of Naval Intelligence, and certain other Naval personnel were included in the organisation as operatives.

 

SRD PROVISIONAL WAR COMPLEMENT

1    Commander
1    Lieutenant Commander
2    Lieutenant Commanders or Lieutenants
45  Lieutenants or Sub. Lieutenants
1    Chief Petty Officer
2    Chief Petty Officers or Petty Officers
26  Petty Officers (Mostly N.A.P. Mates)
19  Leading Seamen
84  Able Seamen or Ordinary Seamen
4    Telegraphists
37  Motor Mechanics (Include 2 Senior M.M.'s)
2    Leading Stokers
26  Stokers
2    Shipwrights
1    Leading Writer
2    Cook (s)

255  Total

 

MELBOURNE HEADQUARTERS

1    Commander        Department of the Navy
1    Lieutenant or Sub. Lieutenant    Assistant Staff Officer
1    Lieutenant or Sub' Lieutenant    N.I.O.
1    Leading Writer

4  Total

 

S.R.D. CAMP AT FRASER COMMANDO SCHOOL

1    Lieutenant or Sub. Lieutenant
1    Chief Petty Officer
1    Shipwright

3   Total

 

NAVAL OFFICER-IN-CHARGE, HORNBILL

1    Lieutenant

 

FREMANTLE BASE

1    Lieutenant Commander
1    Shipwright
1    Motor Mechanic
1    Leading Seaman

4  Total

 

DARWIN BASE

1    Lieutenant

 

The Naval Section of SRD was established in January 1944. Initially, the Naval Section had only two vessels:-

Krait - 70 foot, 68 gross tons Japanese fishing vessel originally called Kofuku Maru.

Alatna - 62 foot Australian Army launch used as a tender

 

REFERENCE BOOKS

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

"The Story of the Krait - Tigers & Snakes"

 

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 Peter Dunn 2003

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This page first produced 7 August 2001

This page last updated 21 October 2009