Operation Jaywick. 1943
Operation Jaywick was primarily developed by the British Special Operations Executive, using among the personnel responsible for its success British officers who had escaped from the Japanese when the latter occupied Singapore in 1942. Since that time Japanese shipping operated in and out of Singapore harbor with relative impunity. Jaywick was planned as an attack on the ships in the harbor, rather than on the port facilities themselves, as a means of maximizing shock to the Japanese.
The plan was conceived by British Captain Ivan Lyon, who envisioned using a captured Japanese fishing vessel to penetrate the harbor, after which small canoes would branch out to attack the ships in port with limpet mines. Limpet mines were small explosives which attached to the hull of vessels, detonated by a timer.
The raid was launched from Australia’s Exmouth Gulf in September 1943, with the British and Australian saboteurs disguising themselves as Japanese fishermen by staining their skin with dyes. To ensure that their presence wasn’t betrayed by the appearance of western products appearing as refuse in the water, they consumed only foods usual to the Japanese. By late September the raiders were in place in Singapore Harbor and on the night of the 26, after establishing a hiding place ashore they attached limpet mines to seven vessels, following which they returned to their lair. The mines sank or severely damaged the ships to which they had been attached and the attackers escaped in the confusion following the explosions, of which the Japanese were unable to determine the source. All 14 of the raiders returned safely to Australia.
The Japanese refused to accept the fact that a raiding party could approach the bastion of Singapore undetected by their fleet or air force. They concluded that the raid must have been the result of local Malay saboteurs allied with Chinese guerrillas and responded with an immediate purge. Numerous arrests were made and suspects were tortured and executed and when the Japanese reprisals failed to yield results, POWs were added to the list of suspects.
The British and Australian governments elected not to announce the resounding success of the raid in the hopes of conducting similar operations in the future, adding to the Japanese determination that the raid was of a local nature. In the end, 39,000 tons of shipping was destroyed by Operation Jaywick, and although none of the raiders were captured, uncounted Malay, Chinese, and other innocent suspects were killed by the enraged Japanese.