On reading the recent publication “Fair Winds to Australia”, author Mr Lew Lind, and subsequent article regarding Services Reconnaissance Department in Naval Historical Review (December 1988), I feel obliged to inform Mr Lind and readers of some facts regarding the operational service of the “Country” or “Snake” Craft in the latter stages of WW2.
Mr Lind writes in “Fair Winds, etc” that “Tiger Snake” was the only vessel of the “Snake” fleet to carry out a wartime operation.
I herein state that “Tiger Snake”, “Black Snake”, “River Snake” and “Sea Snake” were all operational in enemy occupied territory. In addition the crew of “Grass Snake” manned “Kraft” for operation “Sunlag”. The S.W.P. areas of operation ranged from Timor and adjacent islands, to the Celebes, Halmaheras and Borneo.
I list the operations and code names as follows:
Ship and Operation
Tiger Snake: Semutivb, Stallion, Swift II
Black Snake: Giraffe III, Magpie I, Swift, Stork
River Snake: Suncharlie
Sea Snake: Starling, Sundog
These facts are verified in official S.R.D. records held at the Australian Archives, Canberra and researched by ex S.R.D. personnel.
The wartime operation of “Tiger Snake” mentioned by Mr Lind in “Fair Winds” pages 181-182 is stated to have taken place in New Guinea on the Baram River. Let me assure readers that the forementioned river is in Sarawak. The operation is verified as to location by 2/17 Battalion historians.
Note: This refers only to the sailing vessels of the S.R.D. Many other operations were carried out by fast motor boat and work boats.
Mr Lind states in N.H.R. /12.88 and I quote “Mustika”, “Black Snake”, “Diamond Snake”, “Grass Snake”, “River Snake”, “Sea Snake”, “Taipan” and support ships “Eduardo”, “Mother Snake” and “Anaconda” were mystery ships which operated with cloaked stealth, unquote. All this, and “Tiger Snake” not mentioned. The northern route of “Tiger Snake” to Morotai was the first undertaken by a R.A.N. ship since the fall of Singapore.”
In Fair Winds Mr Lind lists “Diamond Snake” transferred to Australian Army 10/45. “Taipan” sold to C.S.I.R.O. 6/1947. “Taipan” was bought by C.S.I.R.O. in 6/46, a year earlier. Neither of these vessels sailed under Services Reconnaisance Department Operational Command.
The following Snake Craft – “Mother Snake”, “River Snake”, “Black Snake”, “Tiger Snake”, “Sea Snake”, “Grass Snake” were transferred to N.O.I.C. Moluccas 13.10.45 for issue to British Borneo Civil Administration Union. “Anaconda” was transferred to Aust. Army 1946. The crews returned to General Service in the case of R.A.N. Personnel, to Z special unit for army.
N.W (Bill) Turnbull S/V 514