Trawler turned war hero
This humble fishing trawler led a double life during World War II.
Krait is undergoing an extensive and much needed conservation programme replacing deteriorated planking and hull structure, and then renewing the decks, hatches and bulwarks. The
project involves rebuilding those items to the correct 1943
configuration. It will be away from the museum for much of this year.
When it returns it will be possible to continue the work at the museum,
and gradually incorporate fitout to represent how the vessel was
configured for the 1943 Jaywick raid. The work is being undertaken in
association with the Australian War Memorial, and is being funded
jointly by ANMM, AWM and the Australian Army.
Built in 1934 in Japan and originally named Kofuku Maru (Happiness or Good Fortune), Krait collected fish from fishermen and ports around the Rhio Archipelago and took the catch to the Singapore markets. It took food, water and other supplies to the fishing fleet.
Confined to port early in World War II, the boat was used by Captain Bill Reynolds to evacuate hundreds of civilians to nearby Sumatra and when the Japanese continued to advance he took it to Colombo. It was soon proposed that the vessel be used as part of a covert operation.
Renamed Krait (after a deadly species of snake) its most famous hour came in 1943 when a 14-strong company of British and Australian army and naval personnel set out on a daring commando night raid on shipping in the Singapore Roads.
Codenamed Operation Jaywick, Krait was disguised as a Japanese fishing boat and successfully taken to within 20 miles of Singapore itself. Three pairs of operatives in folboats (folding canoes) attached limpet mines to and blew up or damaged seven Japanese tankers and freighters totalling some 37,000 tonnes.
Krait then operated out of Darwin as a coastwatch and intelligence support vessel in Indonesia. Commissioned HMAS Krait in 1944, the vessel witnessed the Japanese surrender at Ambon in September 1945 and after the war was handed to the British Borneo Civil Affairs Unit.
Krait was bought by a British sawmiller for the Borneo timber trade - and renamed Pedang (Sword). In the late 1950s two Australians recognised Krait whilst on a timber-related business trip. A public appeal followed and the Krait Trust Fund was formed to purchase the vessel and return it to Australia - which it did successfully in 1964.
The vessel was operated by the Royal Volunteer Coastal Patrol for patrol, search and rescue, boating courses and school visits. It was transferred to the Australian War Memorial in 1985 and has been cared for by ANMM since 1987.
Open daily from 9:30am and can be viewed from our wharves for free.
Buy a Big Ticket when you arrive (see our Admissions page for prices).
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Krait recently featured in an episode of Australian Story on ABC, which you can watch online. Former Maritime Museum employee, Penny Edwell, featured in the episode and you can read two posts by her about Krait over on our blog:
It was also the subject of an ABC news article: MV Krait: Unassuming fishing boat to be restored and memorialised after crucial role in WWII's Special Operations
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© Copyright 2013
Australia National Maritime Museum
Every day 9.30 am - 5 pm
Extend to 6.00 pm in January
Closed Xmas Day 25 Dec.
2 Murrey Street
sydney NSW 2000, AU
+61 2 9298 3777