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World War II: Operation Jaywick


Operation Jaywick Conflict & Date:

The Operation Jaywick attack was conducted September 26, 1943, during World War II (1939-1945).

Operation Jaywick Team

  • Major Ivan Lyon
  • 13 men

Operation Jaywick Overview:

As Allied forces were pushed back to Australia in early 1942, new organizations were formed to support operations against the Japanese. Among these was Special Operations Australia (SOA) which served as an intelligence organization. Created in March 1942, it was folded into the new Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) that June. That same month, a commando organization, Z Special Unit (Z Force) was formed under the auspices of SOA. Consisting largely of Australian and Indonesian personnel, this unit conducted a variety of covert operations in the former Dutch East Indies and the Southwest Pacific.

In 1943, Major Ivan Lyon proposed a daring raid on Japanese shipping in Singapore harbor. Serving in the AIB, Lyon had been posted to Singapore with the Gordon Highlanders prior to the war. During this time he conducted covert operations with the Free French in Indochina and later worked with the local Malaysian population to form resistance groups as the Japanese moved south. With Singapore's fall imminent, he aided in evacuating civilians from the city, meeting an Australian named Bill Reynolds in the process. Reconnecting in Australia, Lyon and Reynolds developed the attack plan for striking at Singapore.

This plan called for a small team to sail north disguised as Asian fishermen. Approaching Singapore, teams would paddle into the harbor in canoes to place limpet mines on enemy shipping. During the evacuation of Singapore, Reynolds had operated a 70-ft. fishing boat known as Kofuku Maru. Then in India, Lyon had it brought to Australia for use in the plan. Dubbed Operation Jaywick, the mission was approved and a fourteen-man team from Z Force, including Lyon, began training.

The final plan called for the team to sail aboard Kofuku Maru, renamed MV Krait after the small but deadly snake, to an island off Singapore. There, three teams of two men would be sent ashore with collapsable canoes and munitions. From the island, the raiders would paddle into Keppel Harbor, Singapore, to conduct the attack. Once complete, they were to return to the island and rendezvous with Krait for the voyage home. Moving from their training camp at Broken Bay to Thursday Island, the raiders prepared for their mission. After refitting at Exmouth Harbor, they departed for Singapore on September 2, 1943.

Conducting Operation Jaywick:

Only capable of around 6.5 knots, the voyage to Singapore took several days. As maintaining their disguise was critical the raiders dyed their skin to appear more like the local population and were careful in regard to the debris that was put overboard. Arriving off Singapore on September 19, the canoe teams and their equipment were landed at Pandjang Island. While Krait, commanded by Lieutenant Hubert Carse, departed for a ten-day trip to Borneo, the canoe teams began moving north towards Singapore.

Though nearly detected by a Japanese patrol boat, they succeeded in reaching Subar Island approximately seven miles from their target. On the night of September 26, the raiders advanced into the harbor. Battling strong currents and evading enemy patrols, they succeeded in placing mines on seven Japanese ships. Dumping their excess equipment, they endeavored to escape the area before the mines detonated. By dawn, the raiders had returned to their base camp and between 5:15 AM and 5:50 AM explosions were heard in the harbor.

While the Japanese mounted a frantic search for the attackers, the raiders began paddling to their rendezvous with Krait at dusk on September 27. Arriving near Pompong Island, the first team was picked up after midnight on October 2. The other two missed Krait in the darkness. Though initially resigned to being trapped behind enemy lines, they were rescued the next night when Krait returned to the area. With the entire strike force aboard, the boat turned south for home. Maintaining their disguise, they had a close call in the Lombok Strait but successful returned to Exmouth Harbor on October 19.

Aftermath of Operation Jaywick:

A daring mission, Operation Jaywick resulted in the sinking or serious damaging of seven Japanese merchant ships totaling around 39,000 tons. Encouraged by the mission's success, Lyon began planning Operation Rimau. A larger version of Jaywick, it was launched in October 1944, but was largely a failure and resulted in Lyon's death and those of his raiding party. On October 10, 1943, the Japanese arrested fifty-seven civilians and internees on suspicion of playing a role in the attack. Dubbed the Double Tenth Incident, those detained were interrogated and tortured, with fifteen ultimately dying in Changi Prison.

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