One of two dioramas created by volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott to commemorate the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait. Image: Geoff Barnes.
Volunteers Geoff Barnes and Roger Scott have once again used their impressive model making skills to create a unique diorama for the Museum, commemorating the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick and the restoration of Krait.
Building Operation Jaywick in miniature
As a volunteer guide at the Museum, I noticed that Krait would be absent from display for quite some time due it’s extensive restorations. Luckily, an Australian model ship company, Modellers Central, released a laser-cut wooden 1:35 scale model to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the raid. Roger Scott and I proposed an exhibit of Krait in miniature so the Museum could have a ‘Krait’ display in Action Stations even when the real ship was in slip.
Krait on 25 September 2018, with the last few details being worked on ready for the event to mark 75 years since Operation Jaywick. Image: Kate Pentecost/ANMM.
Commemorating Operation Jaywick
Today marks the 75th anniversary of Operation Jaywick, a joint Australian and British raid on Singapore Harbour — one of the most audacious and successful commando operations deep inside enemy territory during World War II. Krait, a former Japanese fishing boat, took three teams of Commandos and their folding canoes to Singapore Harbour. They attached magnetic limpet mines to the hulls of seven ships and fled the anchorage undetected. Early the next morning, six explosions shattered the darkness and six Japanese ships – 35,000 tonnes – were sunk or severely damaged. It was a significant blow to Japanese confidence and morale.
The Australian National Maritime Museum marked the WWI armistice with its Remembrance Day event, November 2014. MV Krait is pictured with wreaths.
One of the things I love the most about working at the Australian National Maritime Museum is the ability to collaborate with other people on amazing projects. The education team have a project coming up soon that I am very excited about.
It all started with an exchange with David Foley (Manager of NSW DART Connections) and Paul Heinz from Hawaii’s Arizona memorial now known as the World War II Valor in the Pacific National Monument. Both thought it would be valuable to link students in the United States and Australia around the topic of the World War II with a focus on the conflict in and around the Pacific Ocean. The museum became involved after we were approached to tell the Australian story, thus the collaboration formed.
This humble fishing trawler led a double life during World War II. In 1941, in Singapore, it evacuated people to Sumatra during the Japanese advance. Renamed MV Krait (after a deadly Indian snake), the boat was fitted out in Australia for Operation Jaywick in 1943. Perfectly disguised as a local fishing vessel, Krait sailed boldly into Japanese-occupied waters with a team of Z Special Unit commandos whose mines blew up and severely damaged seven enemy ships in Singapore harbour.
After the war, Krait worked in the Borneo timber trade, until it was recognised by two Australians on a business trip in 1962. Krait returned to Australia to a hero’s welcome, a testament to Australian sacrifice during war. Krait is on loan from the Australian War Memorial.
The vessel was recently moved to Noakes shipyard on Monday 9th December 2013 for its annual slipping. The work package for this preservation was agreed by the Australian War Memorial and the Australian National Maritime Museum. MV Krait ex-WWII veteran under the care of the ANMM has been slipped for a preservation period of 2 weeks.
War, for all of its awful consequences, produces some fascinating advances in technology and some very curious inventions. Some have transferred their purposes to civilian society (the modern computer, the humble slinky) but others are too strange, too specialised to have ever left the realm of warfare.
Meet the Sleeping Beauty.
Designed in WWII by prolific British inventor Major H. Quentin Reeves (said to be the inspiration for Ian Fleming’s character ‘Q’ in the James Bond series) of the top-secret research centre Station IX – the Sleeping Beauties were submersible one-man canoes created specifically for the clandestine activities of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) and its offshoot Special Operations Australia (SOA).
I have been a student of history for many years now, and I know the profound feeling of standing in a landscape, an ancient temple, or in front of an object that you have only ever read about. Seeking that visceral connection to a place, time or person confined to a moment in history is where museums and their objects can be so important – to bring reality to the text on the page or the unmoving photograph.
Yesterday morning I experienced something of that feeling when I had the honour of accompanying the Australian National Maritime Museum’s fleet services crew during a maintenance voyage of the historic vessel MV Krait.
MV Krait passing Garden Island during a maintenance voyage, March 2013. ANMM Photo
At the wharves of the Australian National Maritime Museum sits a small unassuming Japanese fishing vessel. Next to the destroyer HMAS Vampire and the submarine HMAS Onslow, the craft looks even less impressive. However it certainly deserves its place as a historic vessel, as a symbol of one of Australia’s most daring wartime undercover operations and as a reminder of an ill-fated and tragic sequel.
MV KRAIT holds a special place in Australia’s history through its involvement with the Z Special Unit in World War II