On Monday Australian Story revisits the secret weapon behind an audacious and top secret World War II mission.
A rickety old fishing boat, the MV Krait which carried 14 commandos into Singapore harbour in 1943. The tale was also depicted in the 1990s miniseries Heroes.
“When I personally look at it, I see mates of mine who were killed. We regard it as a war memorial, and that’s what we want it to be.” – Douglas Herps, ‘Z Special’ veteran.
“This stuff was highly top secret that they were doing, and extremely dangerous. I mean the courage of these men is really quite something.” – Ian McPhedran, journalist and author.
The inconspicuous MV Krait ferried 14 commandos thousands of kilometres behind enemy lines into Singapore harbour in 1943.
The mission? To blow up enemy shipping right in the heart of Japan’s wartime stronghold. The men involved in this extraordinary raid included some from the top secret, so-called ‘Z Special Unit’.
For ‘Z Special’ veteran Douglas Herps, telling the story of MV Krait, and preserving the boat for future generations, became his final mission.
Douglas Herps died in April 2015, aged 91, just weeks after the original episode was broadcast.
But before his death, he convinced the authorities that this unassuming little boat should be memorialised out of the water, in a major expansion to the Australian National Maritime Museum at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
The first step in Douglas Herps’ vision – essential restoration work of the vessel – is now underway, in large part thanks to a $500,000 grant from the Australian Army.
“In many ways what’s embodied here in this vessel, is carried on by young men and women of the Australian special forces … who are doing very difficult and dangerous work on our behalf in many places around the world today” – Major General (Ret.) Brian Dawson, Australian War Memorial.
Douglas’s family and friends are continuing his fundraising campaign, in the hope that the project can be seen through to completion.
The Story of the Krait also features Roma Page, whose husband Bob Page was on board MV Krait. It was only when the secret exploits of ‘Z Special Unit’ were finally revealed many years after the war that she came to understand Bob’s bravery and ultimate fate. Roma Page died in October 2016, aged 93.
Monday 24 April, 8pm on ABC.