“Commando Kayak” by John Hoehn – An Extract.*

“During subsequent meetings at Victoria Barracks, the two got around to talking about the demise of ISD, as it would affect both of them, but in different ways. It was obvious that the US brass did not like the London based SOE exercising control over clandestine operations in the Pacific theatre through their Australian operating arm. Mott had been acutely aware that, apart from Jaywick, some of the finance for his operations came from the US, but he had now been squeezed out of his job under pressure. With the reorganising of the administration, Colonel P. Chapman-Walker, a former London solicitor, would be appointed as their head, and the entity named Special Operations Australia (SOA would have the alias of Services Reconnaissance Department (SRD).

When in Melbourne just prior to the restructuring, Lyon and Carey had talked with Major Oldham about seaborne raids using foldboats. Carey related how he and some trainees carried out an audacious exercise on Cairns airport. They had paddled to the shore near the aerodrome in the dead of night, broached the perimeter fence then systematically tied shipping tags with various tongue in cheek messages to equipment, including military aircraft, without alerting anyone. A tag was even tied to one of the RAAF personnel’s foot whilst he was asleep, commanding him to report to his superior officer with the note. This man had subsequently been severely reprimanded by his superiors the next day, as he was supposed to have been on watch!

Carey quoted this successful mock raid as a typical example of what could be achieved by serious exercises. Oldham listened, but made the point that foldboat raids to place limpet mines on enemy shipping was the issue, not just tying tags on people. He went on to stress that only if such raids could be proven, might the proposition be considered  by their new top brass, with the emphasis in ‘might’ and ‘considered’.

The key word to Lyon and Carey in that statement as they departed was the word “proven”, and on this premise, they had acted. They chose Townsville as an ideal guinea pig; arguably the most heavily guarded base on Australia’s shoreline. There was always a mix of overseas ships at Townsville, including Allied troop transports and at least a couple of US naval escort vessels. They also knew there was high security around the harbour with mines set along the perimeter. But that should be no problem for their foldboats. If they could get through the mine barrier, it would be a ‘piece of cake.”

ISD, SOE, SOA, SRD? Jaywick? Lyon, Carey, Oldham, Mott? Folboats? To discover more of this intriguing story, purchase “Commando Kayak” by John Hoehn here.

* The above extract has been reproduced with the written permission of the author, John Hoehn. No further reproduction in any form may be made without also seeking the author’s permission, which can be done via this website.

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