- William F. Cook, MVO, Captain, RAN (Rtd)
- Naval Engagements, Operations and Capabilities, WWII operations, History - WW2, Book reviews
- RAN Ships
- HMAS Krait
- March 1995 edition of the Naval Historical Review (all rights reserved)
Title: “Krait” – The Little Fishing Boat that Went to War”
Title: “The Heroes of Rimau”
Author: Lynette Ramsay with research from Major Tom Hall
The histories of “KRAIT” and her Jaywick operation, and the RIMAU operation, are very similar. Both are stirring stories about madcap schemes seemingly impossible of success, the aim in each case being the infiltration of Allied Servicemen into Singapore Harbour to destroy Japanese shipping. Also, many of the men in Jaywick volunteered again for Rimau. There the similarity ends. Jaywick was a resounding success, far beyond the wildest dreams of those involved. Rimau, a heroic failure.
Because “KRAIT” and her ship’s company returned to Australia without casualties, the official Jaywick story when released years later was available to the author. How a small group of supremely courageous men in their frail folboats managed undetected to enter Singapore Harbour, fix limpet mines to some seven ships, all of which were then sunk or otherwise put out of action and escaped unscathed; many miles away “KRAIT” waited anxiously, miraculously evading detection. By contrast, the Rimau operation which began so successfully ended in complete disaster and shrouded in mystery. Nothing was heard of those involved from the time they landed from a submarine to establish a base on an island near Singapore, until the end of the war with Japan.
The immense research involved in uncovering the fact and the fate of Rimau can be measured in point, by the number of footnotes to this book alone (791) plus a bibliography covering 3 pages. Major Hall and the author have uncovered and chronicled a fantastic story of great and sustained courage. But courage was not enough to overcome the many misfortunes Rimau encountered. The element of luck which was so evident in Jaywick deserted the unfortunate Rimau. The Japanese, in their strange way, recognised and admired the courage in their prisoners before executing them in the Samurai tradition.
In reading both books (which is highly recommended) the reader will find some repetition, particularly concerning the fall of Singapore and the history of “KRAIT”. Regarding the former, the author has her favourites, and she doesn’t spare her criticism of those whose actions, in the light of hindsight, now appear to have been ill considered.
A few minor gaffes in naval terminology, e.g. “Knots per hour”; “Head” (always used in the plural, “Heads” in the R.N. and R.A.N., even when referring to a “one-holer”!), living “ON” a ship instead of “IN”, can be forgiven in such vital history, so well told.