Operation Hornbill was a massive operation planned in early January 1944 by Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan Lyon of Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD). The concept was to establish a base within the perimeter of Japanese held islands and from there, attack the Japanese deep behind the lines. The base was to be in the Natuna Archipelago, from where Ivan Lyon and his commandos would use 3 specially converted 'Country Craft' that would have been altered structurally in Australia to look like Chinese style junks operating in the South China Sea. The operation would also use HMS Porpoise, a submarine that would transport the raiders and their equipment to Natuna Archipelago.

Hornbill was postponed until 1945 when production on the vital Country Craft was halted. Lyon then planned Operation Rimau, using the submarine and part of his 35-man raiding party (It is believed he took 22 men and two extra SRD conducting officers). Obviously Operation Rimau went wrong and none of the men returned.

Operation Hornbill's targets were in three parts. In mid-July 1944, an advance party would sail to the Natuna's, carry out a reconnaissance and report back via the submarine on its return to Australia. Lyon and his operational party would sail aboard HMS Porpoise for the Natuna's on 1 September 1944. The 3 Country Craft with Lieutenant-Commander D.M.N. Davidson RNVR in charge, would sail to the Natuna's to arrive a week after the main party which was estimated to arrive about the middle of September. 1944. The first two weeks of October 1944 would see the three country craft take Folbot canoe teams to recce the approaches to the three targets. They were:-

The units were known as Group X, and would remain in the Natuna's for a period of up to nine months. Further operations were planned. There is reference to smaller pin-prick raids in canoes, ferrying agents into Malaya, coast watching stations and a sabotage campaign similar to those of the Special Air Service in North Africa against Axis Airfields.

It is believed that Operation Hornbill would have been launched in February 1945 had the Operation Rimau raiders returned safely.



"Kill the Tiger: The Truth About Operation Rimau"
by Peter Thompson & Robert Macklin
ISBN 0-7336-2015-9



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This page first produced 1 December 2007

This page last updated 15 January 2017