26–27 SEP 1943: World War II and Operation Jaywick destroys Japanese shipping. An Australian Special Operations Australia Unit operating from the former fishing vessel, MV Krait, mines Japanese ships in Singapore Harbour. Seven ships were sunk or badly damaged. The Krait is a wooden hulled vessel famous for its use during World War II by the Z Special Unit (Z Force) of Australia during the raid against Japanese ships anchored in Singapore Harbour. The craft usually lies alongside the Australian Maritime Museum in Sydney, when not being refurbished.
Krait was originally a Japanese fishing vessel based in Singapore called Kofuku Maru. Following the outbreak of war the ship was taken over by Allied forces and used to evacuate over 1,100 people from ships sunk along the East Coast of Sumatra. The ship eventually reached Australia via Ceylon and India in 1942 and was handed over to the Australian Military. In Australian service she was renamed Krait after the small but deadly snake and also the fact that it sounds like the word ‘crate’ which described its appearance to some.
In September 1943 Krait transported members of Z Special Unit to Singapore where they successfully raided the city’s harbour, sinking seven ships. She returned to Australia in October. Krait was used by the Australian military throughout the war and was present at the surrender of the Japanese forces on Ambon in September 1945.
The “Krait” was later used as transport for intelligence gathering missions to islands in the area including Buru, Aru, Ceram, Banda and Saparua. During this period the Krait carried several Japanese prisoners as well as army survey teams and a naval intelligence officer.
At Ambon the boat acquired a monkey as a mascot. He was named Peter and had lost his tail. Peter remained with the crew until the Krait finished her service and was towed to Morotai. The Krait was then sailed to Labuan where she was sold and handed over to the British Borneo Company and where Able Seaman Robert Harry Easom of Perth kept its ensign as a souvenir. That ensign is now on display at the Australian War Memorial.
After its sale Krait was operated off Borneo until she was purchased for use as an Australian Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol vessel in 1964. On Anzac Day 1964 the “Krait” was formally dedicated as a War Memorial by the Governor of NSW. A plaque was affixed to the wheelhouse and is shown below. She was then acquired by the Australian War Memorial in 1985 and was loaned to the Australian National Maritime Museum where she has been displayed to the public since 1988.
From 2015 there were plans for reservation, and as of 2017 the vessel is under restoration.
Since the success of Krait on Operation Jaywick, Australian Commando Unit vessels have traditionally used the names of venomous snakes. This tradition continues today with Red Viper and Coral Snake as current examples.