Kill the Tiger
By Peter Thompson and Robert Macklin
Published by Hodder Headline Australia. $29.95
Reviewed by John Jones
“Kill the Tiger” is the story of Rimau, the special forces operation in late 1944 which sought to repeat the success of the Jaywick raid in October 1943, involving the fishing boat Krait, in the course of which a number of Japanese ships were mined and sunk in Singapore Harbour.
Like many special forces operations in World War II, Rimau was a disaster, being compromised before the British/Australian force even reached Singapore. Twenty three brave men died in action or were executed as alleged spies.
This is an entertaining book, written in a journalistic style which gives the layman a good introduction to the subject. It rightly points out the difficulties faced in the planning and implementation of a perilous operation with added spice being delivered in the form of alleged poor decision-making by a number of people, including the man who subsequently went on to oversee the British Polaris programme. Perhaps most importantly, it highlights (as did the 1990 work on the subject of Rimau by Lynette Ramsay Silver) the fact that those involved were not honoured, and for a number of reasons the details of the operation were subsequently suppressed. One would agree with the authors that those involved deserved far better.
However, the book suffers because the authors appear to be over-enthusiastic in seeking to draw some quite significant conclusions when the evidence is not necessarily there. For example, Thompson and Macklin claim that Rimau was an attempt by the British establishment to re-assert their empire in SE Asia. Given the small size of the operation this seems to be drawing a long bow. Also, for reasons that are unclear, they seem to have taken a dislike to certain individuals. For instance, they make the amazing assertion that Lord Louis Mountbatten encouraged his nephew Philip to marry the (then) Princess Elizabeth so that the House of Mountbatten could replace the House of Windsor!
In all, a worthwhile read, with a reminder to us all about a group of courageous men, but the book should be treated with care if seeking to examine the wider historical content.