Recently, a ceremony has been held in Singapore to commemorate the 70th anniversary of Operation Jaywick, which is regarded as one of the most successful commando raids of World War II.
The solemn ceremony was held at the Kranji War Memorial, which is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. It was organized by Changi Museum in an effort to inform the Singaporeans about their own history.
In September 1943, a group of 14 Australian and British commandos left from Exmouth in Western Australia on a fishing boat and sailed 4,000 kms (2,500 miles) to Subar Island of Singapore. They disguised themselves by darkening their skins in order to be mistaken as local fishermen.
They stealthily passed into Singapore’s Keppel Harbour and paddled around in canoes. They attached mines to seven Japanese ships. As they left the harbor, they witnessed their successful destruction of enemy ships with a combined weight of more than 37,000 tons.
In the ceremony, Philip Green, Australia High Commissioner, said that the Operation Jaywick was planned by Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan Lyon, and Bill Reynolds, a 61-year-old Australian civilian. He further described that the commando team had “slipped quietly” into Singapore’s harbor, and “loudly into history”.
Long before the attack and the Japanese invasion, Lyon had been based in Singapore in 1941 along with his troops, the Gordon Highlanders. He was an experienced sailor and he knows the Malayan archipelago very well.
Reynolds became part of the commando group because he had a boat. It was designed to look like a Malay fishing boat. The boat was named Krait, a type of snake.
Even though the operation was successful, it had some dire consequences. The Japanese was very surprised with the attack and they desperately wanted to know the perpetrators of the attack. They thought that the locals leaked information and assisted the enemies.
Hence, the Japanese arrested 57 innocent civilians and civilian interns at the Changi prison. They were interrogated and tortured by Japanese secret police. 15 died in the process.
“Let us not forget the pain and suffering that was visited upon the innocent civilians and internees, by the dreaded Kempei Tei, the Japanese military police,” said Singapore history consultant Razeen Chan during the ceremony.
Among the arrested civilians was Jackie Sutherland’s godfather, Rob Scott.
“His post had been minister of information here in Singapore before the war,” he said. “And so the Japanese assumed he knew something about the planning of the raid, if not he was actually involved in the planning.”
Optimistic about the success of Operation Jaywick, Lyon headed another raid. In September 1944, he led Operation Rimau. With 6 commandos from Jaywick, Rimau was composed of 23 commandos. This time, they travelled to Singapore with a submarine.
British High Commissioner Antony Phillipson said that the results of Operation Rimau were disastrous.
“Thirteen died in the action itself, including (Jaywick mission commander) Ivan Lyon,” he said. “Ten were captured and put on trial for espionage, found guilty, and beheaded – even more tragically, just months before the Japanese surrender in 1945.”
Seventeen commandos of Rimau are buried at Kranji, including Lyon.