Z Special Unit

In March 1942, Thomas Blamey authorized an Australian counterpart to Special Operations Executive, made up largely of SOE personnel who had escaped from Malaya. This became known as Special Operations Australia (SOA). Three months later SOA was incorporated into the newly-organized Allied Intelligence Bureau as Section A or as ISD (Inter-Allied Services Department), and in March 1943 it was reorganized as Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD) or Z Special Unit. Z Special Unit eventually numbered 144 officers and 622 men and carried out 73 operations, of which 62 were judged successful. However, six of the operations ended in disaster, with the operational group killed or captured.

One of Z Special Unit's more spectacular operations was JAYWICK, which was conceived by Captain Ivan Lyon, who had escaped from Singapore at the time of its surrender. Lyon outfitted a captured 70' (21m) Japanese coastal fishing boat, Kofuku Maru, renamed it Krait, and assembled a team of 15 British and Australian soldiers and sailors for the operation. The team successfully sailed Krait from Exmouth Gulf to Singapore  without being noticed by the Japanese. On the night of 26 September 1943, six of the men climbed into folding boats loaded with small arms and limpet mines and succeeded in penetrating Singapore harbor. The group sank or seriously damaged seven ships totaling 39,000 tons before making a clean escape. The Japanese blamed the raid on local guerrillas, and on 10 October the Kempeitai launched a campaign of terror in Singapore, which became known as Double Tenth from its start date. JAYWICK has been criticized for provoking such a strong reaction against innocent civilians in return for relatively modest damage to the Japanese war effort.

A repeat attempt, RIMAU, was made in September-October 1944, but ended in disaster. The Malay junk used to transport the attack force, Mustika, was challenged by a Japanese patrol boat, a firefight followed, and Mustika was scuttled. Most of the men escaped to Merapas Island, but Lyon and five other men made it into Singapore harbor and sank three Japanes ships. The attack group was cornered on Soreh Island and Lyon killed, and both the survivors from Soreh and those on Merapas were rounded up and executed by the Japanese.


Australian War Memorial (accessed 2012-3-23)
Felton (2009)
"Operation Jaywick" (accessed 2012-3-22)

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