Operation Rimau

The 71st Annual Commemoration

Queensland Maritime Museum

10th July 2016

1030hrs

The Australian Commando Association Queensland

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PROJECT RIMAU

Mission Objective:  To attack shipping in Singapore Harbour, following on from JAYWICK success which sank 39,000 tonnage of shipping and escaped on the Krait without casualties.

This suggested to SOE in London that a similar raid to JAYWICK could be mounted in support of Lord Louis Mountbatten’s South East Asia Command strategies for para military support operations within British and Dutch colonial possessions in South East Asia, away from the northern USA interests and  thrust by MacArthur towards the Philippines and Japan.

Spec Ops Aus via SRD  expressed skepticism about repeating JAYWICK as Japanese precautions were  in place for repeat raid.

 It is alleged that political pressure was applied to Higher Command to rule in favour of the second raid on Singapore shipping.

The reasons determining this decision apparently were to demonstrate to the Asians and the Americans for that matter that the Anglo-Australians were on their way back and had to be taken seriously.

The project had the full support of General Thomas Blamey and LTCOL Lyon DSO of the Gordon Highlanders and commander of the JAYWICK mission was to command RIMAU with mainly new operators. LYONS arrived from England along with a secret weapon for the raid-Mechanical Submersible Canoes called “sleeping beauties”

A 66ft trawler under construction in a Melbourne shipyard was requisitioned for the role of MOTHERCRAFT from which the sleeping beauties could be launched in the AO, and preparations were made to alter its’ appearance to craft similar to that in Singapore waters. Powered by 225HP marine diesel engine it was to be armed with concealed 20MM Oerlikon gun.

A serious limiting factor was the operation had to be completed before the breaking of the monsoon on or before 15 October. Many factors came into play including serious setbacks in shipping construction which denied the country craft to the operation in time  necessitating a change in plans, from which point, things began to go wrong. The mission proceeded with the objective of capturing a native craft from which to close the target area and launch the operatives in their Sleeping Beauties and attack shipping and explosive anchorages, docks and wharves..

They left Fremantle 11 Sept 1945 aboard HM Submarine PORPOISE and proceeded to the operational area  dropping supplies on an uninhabited MERAPAS ISLAND for the extraction phase before proceeding to the junk sea route near Dutch Borneo to seize such a junk.

On 26 September, members boarded and captured the MUSTIKA, a sailing vessel with no auxiliary engine to use as a close-in mother craft.  In the opinion of the submarine commander it was not the right type of vessel for the area into which they would sail. His words were to prove prophetic. However they parted company and pressed on alone for PULAU LABAN.

10 Oct and just south of Singapore the unusual type of craft drew attention from a police launch manned by Malay policemen which closed to investigate. Mistaking the patrol vessel for a Japanese one, the party opened fire killing all aboard. Following the firefight, the operation was abandoned by Lyon as now compromised and the MUSTIKA and secret submersible canoes were scuttled in deep water.

The party then split up into 4 groups in rubber boats and executed an E&E plan with MARAPAS ISLAND as the RV.  3 days later the Japanese learned of the action and alerted all island garrisons to be on the lookout.

By coincidence all 4 parties ended up on SOLE (ASORE) ISLAND where they clashed with the Japanese and in the pursuit by Japanese troops, 12 were killed , including Lyon, or died in prison or whilst attempting to escape thru the islands. The last 11 survivors were captured and taken to Singapore after capture where one allegedly died of malaria and the remainder executed by beheading on 7th July, 1945.

  The sequence of events and what actually transpired is uncertain but the remains of the Party married up on MARAPAS Island where they came into heavy contact with their pursuers and had to leave the island several days before the RV with the replacement submarine HMS TANTALUS. The fighting went on from island to island until 12 had been killed or taken prisoner. Of these one Able Seaman died shortly after allegedly from malaria. The other 9 were taken to SINGKEP Police Station and then the notorious Kempei Tai interrogation centre in SINGAPORE.

Of those other parties escaping thru the islands..
One group of 3 got as far as TIMOR when their rubber boat was stranded on fishing stakes.  2 companions in this remarkable voyage were lost-one to shark attack and the other killed by a chinese. The survivor, an officer, was brought to Singapore and lodged with the other survivors until they were all transferred to OUTRAM Road Gaol.

Another party of 3 managed to capture a junk near the Borneo coast but were thrown overboard by the Chinese crew. 2 drowned and the survivor floated ashore on a log only to be handed over to the Japanese by local fishermen. He also ended up in Singapore with the other survivors.

Another 3 sailed on down the BORNEO coast and thru the JAVA Sea reaching ROMANG Island off NE coast of Timor, having left one on an island as too sick to travel. Here they were betrayed to the Japanese HQ in Dili where they eventually died of wounds and neglect. Their companion was also picked up and died in hospital. Such an epic and near completed voyage deserved a better fate.

When PORPOISE was rendered non-operational the submarine HM TANTALUS was hastily diverted to make the first RV but could not make it due to operational and unusual enemy activity;

When it turned up at last during the next RV timing, 30 days later, there was nobody waiting  and the SRD conducting officer went ashore and found the island deserted with evidence of a hasty departure.  it was not until 9 January when a radio intercept revealed that the men had been killed or captured that the fate of RIMAU became evident.

On the 5th July 1945 the surviving 10 were sentenced to death by a military court and beheaded in the execution ground off Reformatory Road on 7th July where their mass grave was discovered by chance just 2 months later following the Japanese surrender.

We don’t know and may never know all the details of what befell RIMAU and how all the 23 Z men individually met their fate as all records concerning the capture, interrogation, trial and execution of the RIMAU prisoners were destroyed and even their existence concealed. The mass grave discovery aside, the only evidence eventually obtained from the Japanese officers involved in the Military Court was concocted by themselves, then in prison awaiting trial for war crimes.

It was long believed that RIMAU had no success but eventual release of secret  American “Y” material and intercepts  revealed they sank or damaged 3 ships including a cruiser  by attaching delayed action mines to ships in the harbor before they dispersed and executed their E&E plan.

RIMAU was the single most expensive SRD operation in terms of human loss for SRD but their courage, tenacity and sacrifice shines in the histories of our commando forces and the same quality of men then exists today in our Armed Forces-especially in Special Operations.
It is fitting to conclude with the last stanza of a poem dedicated to them.

Copyright Keith Long 2014

THERE SHALL BE NO MORE PAIN FOR THEM
AND NO MORE LABOURED BREATH.
THEY SET A BRAVE EXAMPLE
BEYOND THEIR PLACE OF DEATH.
AND GOD WILL LET THEM ACHE NO MORE
“Z” MEN AT SINGAPORE

LEST WE FORGET.

The Roll of Honour

Lieutenant-Colonel Ivan Lyon, DSO, MBE (Gordon Highlanders)
died at Soreh Island, Riouw Archipelago, 16 October 1944, aged 29.

Lieutenant-Commander Donald Davidson, DSO (RNVR)
died at Tapai Island, Riouw Archipelago, 18 October 1944, aged 35.

Major Reginald M. Ingleton (Royal Marines)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 25.

Captain Robert C. Page, DSO (AIF)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 24.

Lieutenant Walter G. Carey (AIF)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 31.

Lieutenant Bruno P. Reymond (RANR)
died off Satai Cape, Borneo, 21 December 1944, 31.

Lieutenant H. Robert Ross (British Army)
died at Soreh Island, Riouw Archipelago, 16 October 1944, aged 27.

Lieutenant Albert L. Sargent (AIF)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 25.

Sub-Lieutenant J. Gregor Riggs (RNVR)
died at Merapas Island, Riouw Archipelago, 5 November 1944, aged 19. 457 Warrant Officer Alfred

Warren (AIF)
Died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 32.

Warrant Officer Jefferey Willersdorf (AIF)
died at Dili, Timor, February 1945, aged 22.

Sergeant Colin B. Cameron (AIF)
died at Merapas Island, Riouw Archipelago, 5 November 1944, aged 21.

Sergeant David P. Gooley (AIF)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 27.

Corporal Archibald G. Campbell (AIF)
died at Tapai Island, Riouw Archipelago, 18 October 1944, aged 26.

Corporal Colin M. Craft (AIF)
died off Satai Cape, Borneo, 21 December1944, aged 21.

Corporal Roland B. Fletcher (AIF)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 29.

Corporal Clair M. Stewart (AIF)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 35.

Able Seaman Walter G. Falls, DSM (RANR)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 25.

Able Seaman Andrew W.E. Huston, DSM (RANR)
died off Boeaja Island, Lingga Archipelago, 16 December 1944, aged 20.

Able Seaman Frederick W. Marsh (RANR)
died at Tandjung Pagar, Singapore, 11 January 1945, aged 21.

Lance Corporal John T. Hardy (AIF)
died at Bukit Timah, Singapore, 7 July 1945, aged 23.

Lance Corporal Hugo J. Pace (AIF)
Died at Dili, Timor, June 1945, aged 25.

Private Douglas R. Warne (AIF)
died at Soerabaya, Java, April 1945, aged 24.

Videos

The Very Beginning 

Father Bill: The Greeting and Prayer  

Governor: Vice - Regal Address

 ACA: Operation Address 

Wreath Laying

Calling of Roll  

 
 
 
 
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Photos and Videos from Lucy.

 
 
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Photos from Jack Eaves