Manual a beauty

THE WA Maritime Museum has been given an exact copy of a manual for a secret WWII motorised submersible canoe used by “Z Force” which trained in Cockburn Sound.

The museum has a replica of the canoe, and when regular visitor Brigadier … Thomson was given a manual, he decided to head down south to donate a copy to commemorate the commando unit.

The canoes were designed by Major Hugh Alleyne Reeves and were know as Sleeping Beauties. Divers would drive the canoes underwater and attach limpet mines to enemy boats.

• Brig Jonathon Thomson with the manual. Photo by Meagan Barrett

• Brig Jonathon Thomson with the manual. Photo by Meagan Barrett

Following the use of foldable canoes in a stunning attack on Singapore Harbour, Z Force was trained to use the MSCs on a follow-up raid codenamed Operation Rimau. They were supposed to sneak into the harbour unseen, but were challenged by a Japanese patrol boat. The canoes were considered so top secret they were filled with explosives and blown up so they wouldn’t fall into Japanese hands.

Foldable canoes were used to try and complete the mission, but despite possibly sinking three Japanese boats, the head of the unit and 12 others were killed in action and the remainder were captured and publicly beheaded.

Brig Thomson says his manual came from Commander Harold Wilkinson Goulding of the British Special Boat Unit.

“He had taken it home; he shouldn’t have done, because it’s top secret.

“Years later his granddaughter Jill Goulding discovered it in a trunk.

“In WWII it was classified as top secret, because you didn’t want to tell the enemy that you had them and you had this capability.”


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