Friday, February 08, 2019

Fullbore Friday

Now for Part 2 of 2 from last week's FbF. If you have not read it yet, head back, give it a read, and come back. We'll wait.

Let's pick up the story of the Krait (renamed from Kofuku Maru).
Lyon located a replacement engine for the Krait in Hobart, Tasmania, and had it shipped to Townsville and installed. For simplicity’s sake and to save space, he scrapped the part of his plan to destroy harbor installations in Singapore and concentrated on shipping. Even so, when the 70-foot-by-11-foot Krait sailed to Cairns and was fitted out with supplies and stores for six months. With diesel fuel, kerosene, canoes, weapons, explosives, equipment, spare parts, and radio gear, there was only enough space left for the team to sleep a few at a time in hammocks slung in any vacant spot.

Lyon’s team included Donald Davidson, second-in-command, British Royal Navy, a tough, resourceful Englishman who had spent years in Australia’s outback and the jungles of Southeast Asia and had been commissioned in the Navy in Singapore with no previous naval experience; Lieutenant Bob Page, Australian Army, former third-year medical student who had swapped university studies for special operations; Lieutenant Ted Carse, Australian Navy, navigator, who had sworn off alcohol for this operation; Stoker Paddy McDowell, British Royal Navy, ship’s engineer and World War I veteran; Corporal Taffy Morris, a British Army medic who had escaped from Sumatra with Lyon; Corporal Andrew Crilley, an Australian Army engineer who had volunteered to be cook to get selected for the team; Telegraphist Horrie Young, Australian Navy; and six young Australian Navy seamen who had not yet been to sea—Wally Falls, Freddie Marsh, Cobber Cain, Andrew Huston, Arthur Jones, and Mostyn Berryman. All were volunteers from the Z Special Unit, usually called Z Force.
On August 9, 1943, they left Cairns on a 2,400-mile voyage around the north of Australia to Exmouth Gulf in Western Australia. There the crew of the American submarine repair ship Chanticleer did some excellent repair work on the Krait while refusing to believe that the “crate” had made it all the way from Cairns. They prepared her with 150 pounds of plastic explosives so that she could easily be blown up if captured.
I had to add that because, well, you know my feelings about the incredible force multiplier tenders are. Before I get on another "where are my damn tenders today" rant, let's push on to the attack. Remember to read it all ... but let's get to the pointy end;
On September 8, the raiders were more than 700 miles north of Australia and within sight of Gunung Agung, the 10,000-foot sacred mountain of Bali, and the equally sacred 12,000-foot Gunung Rinjani on the nearby island of Lombok. That night they steered between the two islands into the 25-mile-long Lombok Strait, hoping their fishing boat flying the Japanese flag would not be challenged and to make it through by dawn.
On the night of September 16, the raiders anchored off a beach on the island of Pompong, and Davidson, Cain, and Jones went ashore and buried cans of water and emergency supplies. During the night they listened to the growl of engines as Japanese seaplanes were warmed up at the base on nearby Chempa Island and watched searchlight beams in the sky.
The gear was taken ashore—canoes, limpet mines, food and water, arms and ammunition, clothing, medical kits, and a bag of Dutch gold guilders. The Japanese patrol boat, whose engine they had heard earlier, again passed very close.

Lyon called a meeting of the team. It was decided that this island, Pandjang, 30 miles from Singapore, was too close as a pickup point after the raid, that 12 days should be allowed for the raid, and that the attack team should be picked up at Pompong Island—50 miles from Singapore—where they had buried the emergency rations. Pickup would be at midnight on October 1. If the attack team was not there, the Krait would return 48 hours later.
At 4 am, the attack team—Major Lyon, Lieutenants Davidson and Page, and Seamen Falls, Jones and Huston—shook hands with the others and were rowed ashore.
The canoes were 17 feet long and, loaded with two men, limpet mines, arms, equipment, food and water, weighed almost a third of a ton. They got them into the sea and waited, each man dressed in a black Japara silk suit and black exercise shoes, faces and hands blackened, pistols and knives strapped on, compasses and first aid kits in zippered pockets, each with a cyanide tablet within easy reach in case of need. When the regular Japanese patrol boat passed, they climbed into the canoes and began paddling toward Singapore, Lyon and Huston in one, Davidson and Falls in another, and Page and Jones in the third.
They paddled until midnight, covering 11 miles, and then, tired and sore from the unaccustomed labor, pulled in at the small, uninhabited island of Bulat. They unloaded the canoes and carried their gear to a grove of palms in the scrub and lay down and slept until daylight.

Waking, they looked out to sea to find a motorized sampan flying a Japanese flag moving slowly toward the beach, and on the beach there was still some of their gear. Two of the canoes were only partly hidden. Pistols ready, cursing themselves for their carelessness, they watched the sampan anchor just off the beach. During the next hour they held their breath as Japanese sailors moved around on the deck of the sampan, but none of them noticed the gear on the beach. When the sampan left, they quickly got the gear and canoes under cover.
Life is often the luck of another persons ill-attention, or lack of it. The mission continues;
After dark, still stiff and sore from the previous night’s paddling in the cramped canoes, they set off for the Bulan Strait. The strait was only a mile wide, and the rip tides and whirls among the islands made paddling the heavily laden canoes extremely difficult. They had traveled less than nine miles when they dragged the canoes among the mangroves of Bulan Island just before dawn. When dawn broke, they heard voices calling and could see people moving about in a village only a short distance away on the next island. Looking around, they saw more villages dotting other small islands, and sailboats and canoes began using a channel only yards away from them.

They laced mangrove branches as camouflage, ate some of their rations, and lay down in the stinking mangrove mud to sleep, their calm broken by calls coming from the villages, dog fights, and the shouts of boatmen passing so close that the sails of their boats blotted out the sun. It was a miserable day. Sandflies attacked them in swarms, and crabs nipped them as they lay baking in the sun, but in the late afternoon it rained heavily and, refreshed somewhat by it, they left in their canoes as soon as it was dark.

They were out of the Bulan Strait by midnight and by 2 am could see the lights of Singapore in the sky—they were too low in the water to see them directly. They landed on Dongas Island and hid their canoes and gear. They were eight miles from their target and 2,000 miles from their base at Exmouth Gulf, Western Australia.
In canoes.
The next morning they checked the island and found it uninhabited. From a high point, using a telescope, they spent hours looking through the haze into the harbor. For Huston, Falls, and Jones, Singapore was just another island, an island to be attacked, but for the other three there were emotional links. Bob Page’s father was a prisoner in Singapore as were Donald Davidson’s brothers, and for Ivan Lyon it was his wife and young son. They had escaped Singapore before its fall and reached Ceylon. Sailing to Australia to join Lyon, their ship was sunk in the Indian Ocean and they were taken as prisoners to Singapore. Lyon knew that much but did not know they had been moved to a prison camp in Japan. They survived in the camp until freed by American troops when Japan surrendered....
The attack team rested on Dongas Island for much of the next two days and watched the courses steered by a variety of ships for evidence of minefields.
On the second afternoon, a convoy of 13 ships moved into the Roads, preparatory to leaving the harbor. It was too good a target to miss, and after dark the team carried their canoes to the beach and launched them.

At midnight they were still two miles from the Roads, fighting a crosstide, when a searchlight snapped on. Motionless, they floated for half a minute in the glare, expecting an alarm to sound, and then the light went out. They closed up and decided that, because of the crosstide, they would have to give up for the night. They also decided they would find another island from which to launch their attack.

They left Dongas Island the next night and, fighting the tides between islands, they reached Subar Island, seven miles west of Dongas, just before dawn.
Patience. Luck. Training. Endurance.
Subar was a rocky island, the rocks too hot to touch, and so hot it was impossible to sleep during the day. The men lay on blankets on a cliff top where they could look down on the sea 60 feet below and watch the passing parade of junks and ketches, proas and sampans. The heat haze lifted in mid-afternoon, and through the telescope they examined the harbor, transferring what they saw to their chart and planning their attack that night.

Under a moonless sky they paddled for the lights of Singapore. In the harbor they twice lay forward and motionless in their canoes while searchlights played over them, but no alarm was raised. Then they separated, looking for targets.
It was time;
Along Bukum wharves where the sea glowed with reflected light, Bob Page and Arthur Jones passed a 5,000-ton freighter, then a small coastal ship and a big, well-lit tanker on which welders were working. Page decided on the freighter. They had to cross a large patch of full light before they came into the shadow of the freighter, and when their eyes adjusted they moved along its hull attaching limpet mines below the waterline, timed to explode at 5 am.

They hung on the anchor chain, resting and eating chocolate bars and listening to the chatter of the welders and other workmen on the tanker until, warned by instinct, they looked up to see a uniformed Japanese guard on the deck above them. Unmoving, they watched him for several minutes until he spat into the sea beside them and moved on. They paddled away.

Their second target was a large, modern ship low in the water with cargo. The glow of its lights on the water around it and the red dots of cigarettes being smoked by the crew on deck made it a dangerous target, but they took the risk and attached limpets. Leaving this ship, they were caught in a rip current that, before they realized what was happening, bumped the canoe against the rudder of a heavily laden tramp steamer. They attached their remaining limpets to it and, bathed in sweat and desperately tired, they began paddling for Dongas Island where they would meet the others.

Ivan Lyon and Andrew Huston paddled into Examination Anchorage where, in contrast to the lights that had plagued Page and Jones, there was almost complete darkness. Low in the water, it was almost impossible for them to spot ships against the blackness of the anchorage and the shoreline hills. They paddled for two hours unable to find a ship and then saw a red light and the silhouette of a tanker. They circled her, noting how low she was in the water and, knowing that it was difficult to sink a tanker with limpets, they decided to put all they had on her.

As they could hear voices on deck, they worked slowly and cautiously. They placed three limpets over her engine room, another three around her propeller, and moved along her starboard side. With two more limpets attached and the last one ready to go on, Lyon looked up to see, 10 feet above him, a man’s head out of a porthole, his face pale against the black hull. The man sniffed and cleared his throat, and Lyon, the limpet in his hands, wondered if he would have time to attach it. So he set a one-minute fuse to detonate it if they were challenged. The head disappeared, a light appeared in the porthole, and they waited for the man to return with a flashlight to shine on them. He did not. Lyon attached the limpet, and they paddled away.

Donald Davidson and Wally Falls paddled into Keppel Harbor, where they were almost run down by a steam ferry. Passing the yacht club, they could hear Japanese voices raised in song and other sounds of party revelry. In Empire Dock, where there were ships, it was so highly floodlit and there was so much activity going on they kept moving, following an ocean-going tug into the Roads off the business heart of Singapore. Here there were plenty of ships and a lot of light.

They drifted in beside a heavily laden freighter and attached three limpets, then moved on and did the same to a second freighter and a third. The Victoria Hall clock chimed 1 am. It was getting late. They decided not to return to Dongas Island but to make straight for the rendezvous on Pompong Island.

Lyon, Huston, Page, and Jones reached Dongas just before daylight, and after nine hours in the canoes they were so exhausted and sore they had great difficulty unloading and hiding the canoes. But they scrambled up the hill and waited expectantly in the growing daylight. At 5:15 they heard a dull explosion—and six minutes later a second one. They could hear the sound of sirens. In the next 20 minutes they heard five more explosions. “A good night’s work,” Jones said.
If you have not already, head over for the rest of the story at WarfareHistoryNetwork.

Not heard of this before? Well, there are reasons. Some was how well it was hidden ... the other the secondary cost;
Although the loss of Japanese shipping in the operation, 37,000 tons, was very small in comparison with, say, Japanese ships sunk by American submarines, the sheer daring of the operation would have given a boost to Allied morale if it had been publicized and would probably have created panic in every Japanese occupied port in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. But the operation was classified top secret as knowledge of it by the Japanese could jeopardize any future similar operations. The story of operation Jaywick was buried in the files until long after the war.

The Jaywick team returned to Z Force, not knowing that in Singapore the Japanese had blamed local saboteurs for the sinking of their ships and begun an investigation that led to the imprisonment, torture and execution of hundreds of Chinese and Malays, and some of the Europeans interned on the island.
That last bit is on the Japanese.

Anyway, for the men, remember, no matter what you do in life, you'll never be this cool.

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