Remembering Operation Jaywick: The WWII mission that sparked painful reprisals for S’poreans

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SINGAPORE - A daring mission by Allied commandos during World War II damaged seven Japanese vessels in Singapore waters, but led to reprisals that saw a number of people here tortured and killed.

Among those rounded up in the aftermath of Operation Jaywick was Mrs Elizabeth Choy and her husband, Mr Choy Khun Heng. Mrs Choy, a teacher, was released only after 200 days of starvation and repeated torture. 

She became a celebrated war heroine and returned to teaching after a short stint in politics.

She died of cancer in 2006 at the age of 95.

Operation Jaywick took place on Sept 26, 1943, more than a year after the Japanese occupied Singapore. It was carried out by a team of 14 Australian and British commandos and sailors from a group called the Z Special Unit.

Dr James Hunter, curator of naval heritage and archaeology at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, told The Straits Times that it was one of the first raids of its type carried out in the Pacific theatre.

The Japanese military had not been expecting Allied forces to launch an attack from Australia.

Said Dr Hunter: “It is actually quite significant in the fact that it was so successful and that nobody got killed or even wounded in the raid, which is remarkable.

“(That) they travelled so far, so deep into enemy territory, pulled off the mission and then were able to escape without being detected was just absolutely amazing.”

The expedition was led by Major Ivan Lyon, a British solider. The plan was to use a captured Japanese fishing vessel – the Kofuku Maru, which they renamed Krait, after a deadly snake found in India – to travel from Australia to Singapore.

They left Exmouth, in Western Australia, on Sept 2, 1943, and travelled through the Lombok Strait, across the Java Sea and along the south-west and western c...

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