The Mighty Krait
The little boat that pulled off Australia’s most daring commando raid of WWII
By Ian McPhedran
Published by Harper Collins
RRP $35.00 in paperback • ISBN 9781460755648
This is an interesting story, firstly, of a little known commando raid by fourteen young Z special operatives who sailed a small fishing boat – the Krait – from Australia to Japanese-occupied Singapore in September 1943 with the aim of destroying enemy shipping in Singapore harbour.
It had been a plan born out of the evacuation of Singapore as it fell to the Japanese and the realization by one of the plan’s major proponents, 27-year-old Captain Ivan Lyon of the Gordon Highlander Regiment, that an unassuming vessel disguised as a local fishing boat could go undetected by the enemy.
It takes no imagination at all to understand what obstacles they faced and the risks they took on the perilous journey to and from Australia. In the end, 26,000 tonnes of enemy shipping was either sunk or badly damaged.
The operation – codenamed Jaywick – still rates as one of the greatest Special Forces operations of all time. Interestingly it was funded by SOE (Special Operations Executive) in the UK with assistance from the RAN.
Its success though was tempered by the reprisals of the Japanese who blamed the event on locals. At least fifteen people were murdered in a recognized war crime event and many more were tortured to reveal information about the raid that they could not possibly know.
Fast forward several decades, this small unassuming vessel which played such a key part in one of World War II’s most audacious and successful commando raids was being left to rot, having fulfilled many roles in its post-war life.
But the efforts of a few have saved this historic vessel and seen it restored to its 1943 configuration. Krait is on display at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, with ambitious plans to create a permanent display in a climate-controlled building for the small craft that played such a significant role in the war in the Pacific.
Pictures of the restoration can be seen at this link:
There have been earlier books on the story of the Jaywick raid and the later operation, Rimau, which ended in disaster, including but not limited to:
Deadly Secrets: The Singapore Raids 1942-1945
by Lynette Ramsay Silver
Operation Rimau: Australia’s heroic and daring Commando Raid on Singapore
by Peter Thomson