History of MV Krait and Operation Jaywick

MV Krait and Operation Jaywick

L-R:  MV Krait (AWM 300915), Group portrait of Operation Jaywick (AWM 045424), MV Krait in Singapore Harbour (AWM 044211).

The MV Krait (formerly named Kofuku Maru) was originally the property of a Japanese fishing firm in Singapore. With the Japanese invasion of Singapore in February 1942, the vessel was used to rescue survivors from Allied ships that had been sunk along the coast of Sumatra. Later, Krait became central to a covert wartime mission, Operation Jaywick. Its objective was to destroy shipping vessels in Japanese-occupied Singapore Harbour. Commanded by a British army officer, Major Ivan Lyon, the team comprised four British and eleven Australian sailors and soldiers (including members of Z Special Unit).

Disguised as Malay fishermen, aboard the former Japanese fishing vessel, the Krait embarked upon a three-week journey from Exmouth, Western Australia, to Subor Island, south of Singapore. Upon arrival, at around 5.20pm on 26 September 1943, Lyon and his team paddled to Singapore in collapsible canoes, known as folboats. Reaching the harbour after dark, the men slipped from ship to ship, attaching magnetic limpet mines before making their escape. When the mines exploded, seven ships were sunk or damaged.

Upon its return to Australia the Krait encountered a Japanese destroyer, while navigating the Lombok Strait. The destroyer came within 100 yards, but Krait’s disguise was apparently sufficient to allay any suspicions, and they continued their journey unscathed. Krait returned to Australian shores on 19 October 1943, having covered some 4,000 nautical miles during its 48-day mission.