Operation Rimau (What went wrong) Pt2


31. Saturday, 4 November, 1944 – The surviving party Included the Merapas members and the Kasoe escape party, namely: Cameron, Carey, Craft, Falls, Fletcher, Gooley, Hardy, Huston, Ingleton, Marsh, Pace, Page, Reymond, Rigg, Sargent, Stewart, Warne, Warren, and Willersdorf.

32. Presumably the men succeeded in reaching the island in seven folboats pairing off and reshuffling places on the boats as necessitated by the occasion, (ie casualties, hasty retreat, general fitness, etc). Travelling would have been extremely difficult given that since early October the Monsoon had begun to manifest with intermittent tropical rainstorms and associated seas swelling. Ultimately the base was raided by the Japanese who had received information on the Rimaus from Wahab, a native headman of a neighbouring island. It is also highly probable that the Rimaus had already been spotted by fishermen on Merapas by early October when engaged in various activities, such as chopping wood, cooking, talking, MAJ Fujita (Paragraph 25) was informed of white men being present on the island towards the end of October.

33. In the retreat which immediately followed SUBLT Rigg lost his life. The rest of the Rimaus were compelled to leave without a substantial number of stores including food and radio equipment, only 3 days before the Submarine was due to arrive for its first pick up. The Rimaus stole two native sailing Koleks moored off Merapas and with six of their two-man canoes sailed to Mapor, a distance of about 4-5 miles.

34. The Japanese gained large quantities of stores in Soreh including three folboats. In addition they took possession of a diary presumably belonging to LIEUT Carey which he had used to note shipping and aircraft movements, and perhaps it also contained the exact number of the Rimau personnel. However, there is no evidence to suggest that the diary contained written material although the discovery was transmitted through various Japanese channels.


MAPOR (4-5 miles off the west coast of Merapas,):

POMPONG (About 20-30 miles from Merapas near Panjang Island and close to the Temiang Strait shipping route):
35. The pick up arrangements are contained in Fremantle Submarine Operation Order No.1 of 9 September, 1944:
‘Approximately on D/58 the S/M, or another detailed to take PORPOISE’s place, will return to MERAPAS ISLAND for the purpose of rescuing the operational party of 22 men (sic). In the event to the “Pick up” failing to materialise about the date give, namely D/58, the operational party will remain there until D/88, after which date they will make such alternative arrangements as are possible to escape.’

(in H. Lander, Document ‘A’, 1984:26)

From then on it is highly probable that the rest of the party waited on islands close to Merapas in a bid to make contact with the submarine which was due on 22 November. A group of men were seen by the Amir of Senegand at an uncertain period, during Oct/Nov 1944, on Mapor Island. Two of the Rimaus were observed at 1130 hours local time at Temiang Island on 27 November. At 1630 hours the next day, local inhabitants sighted six white men on the Island of Pompong until a Japanese patrol arrived on Pompong. The fugitives vacated the island leaving substantial quantities of stores behind them. In early December a Chinese, Goh King repaired one of the Koleks at 7anjong Datu situated on the south coast of Lingga Island. The 714maus were also seen on Katerong or Kelong Island on 2 December.

36. It is estimated that a group of Rimaus left Mapor for .Dompong on 19/20 November and arrived on the island 8/9 days later. Pompong was familiar ground to a few of the party. A small sandy beach on the north east end of the island had been used by some of the ‘Jaywick’ crew (Lyon, Page, Marsh, Falls). Another island used by ‘Jaywick’ was Panjang Island, located only a few miles from Pompong Island. The island had been used as a rendezvous in which the 1943 team had left a cache of food. It is reasonable to assume that a group sailed from :,vapor to Merapas each night to survey the area until the final rendezvous date scheduled for 8 December, 1944. (27)


37. It is important to note that in respect of the evacuation this did in fact occur according to the operational requirements, in that the submarine did rendezvous at the predetermined time and location but departed the area when the raiding party failed to arrive. The submarine encountered difficulty approaching the northern end of Merapas Island because of a strong southerly current and had to move off to the southern end of Merapas Island. It surfaced at 1916 hours on 21 November, 1944. A periscope reconnaissance showed no sign of danger. At 0100 hours on 22 November, 1944 a rescue party which included MAJ Chapman and CPL Croton disembarked and found no one but there were signs that the Rimau crew had been there and had left in a hurry which was indicated by fires extinguished and half cooked food. Later, the Admiralty reported that the submarine had sailed in to shallow water within 500 yards off the rendezvous point on its way to pick up the party but because it was a moonlit night the submarine could not surface for an extended period. The Commander asserted that it did surface however at 1000 pm on 22 November ‘sticking up like the side of a house….(and) anyone at the rendezvous MUST have seen the TANTALUS’. From the Commander’s report there were fires burning on the southern end of the island each night. These might have been left by a Japanese patrol and could have been planned as decoys. In addition, an over-all problem which had been of great concern to the Commander of the ‘PORPOISE’ was the state of the ship’s batteries. The latter had to be recharged by the vessels diesels which could only be done by the submarine remaining on the surface for some hours. Assuming that the ‘TANTALUS’ experienced the same problem, this technicality would have imposed certain limitations on the process of investigating the immediate environment. There is also an indication that the ‘TANTALUS’ surfaced at 1000 pm at the wrong rendezvous, ‘The Hammock Tree’ whilst the Rimaus probably kept vigil at Land Crab Bay, the original pick up point. An assumption is made that the Rimaus may have sighted the submarine but could not make the rendezvous because of the Japanese camp fires. (Map 5)


38. SRD were planning a Rimau search and rescue operation calledd Operation Rimexit. It was delayed when SRD learned that British Force 136 operation had some relevant information. These were intercepted coded signals dated December 1944/January 1945. The operation was abandoned in January when ULTRA information from Kandy brought the news that Operation Rimau had come to grief. (28)


39. After missing the submarine the whole party probably planned to return home using islands located south in the Lingga Archipelago as stepping stones. At this stage, the Rimau team may have grouped themselves in sixes and threes divided into two boat parties, and 2 Kolek parties:

Boat Party No. 1
Page; Marsh; Falls; Huston; Gooley; Fletcher

Boat Party No. 2
Ingleton; Hardy; Carey; Stewart; Warren; Cameron

Kolek Party No. 1
Craft; Sargent; Reymond;

Kolek Party No. 2
Willersdorf; Pace; Warne

40. They were seen on several islands obviously to retrieve provisional stores and food hidden during ‘Jaywick’ in 1943, and ultimately, for the purpose of investigating the junk routes passing through in the Lingga Archipelago and in the Temiang Strait. Eyewitnesses saw six men on Sebangka Island in the Lingga Archipelago and also on Pedjantan to which the Rimau party had transferred their stores from the ‘PORPOISE’ in September.

41. Between 13/14 December six men on two Koleks went across to Borneo which was a regular coastal junk route. It was in that region that the ‘Mustaka’ had been captured. But finding a junk to capture during the monsoon season would have been a difficult enterprise. There was a big storm on 17 December rendering sea navigation hazardous and the Rimaus would have had to a make quick decision. It seems logical to surmise that twelve of the Rimaus stayed on Pompong or within close proximity waiting for the Kolek party to come back for them with a captured junk.

42. According to the many debates on the subject the Koleks drifted apart near Pelapis Island around 17/18 December, the west coast of Borneo. This incident might have been 22used by very strong currents prevailing in the region during that period or perhaps one boat was in disrepair. The men of the Rimau were also greatly disadvantaged having left their sa41 units behind due to a last minute change of plan. addling across the ocean in folboats was not only a very slow and impracticable process in the continuous state of emergency in which the Rimaus found themselves but an extremely dangerous enterprise.

43. LT Reymond, LT Sargent and CPL Craft somehow organised a junk operated by Chinese mariners near Maja Island around 20 December. There is no evidence to suggest that attempts were made to bribe the crew or whether the Rimaus were robbed by the Chinese. However, a few nautical miles from the west Borneo coast, in the Pontianak zone the operation faltered. The outnumbered Rimaus, were overpowered and assaulted one evening by the crew and thrown overboard.


44. Monitored Japanese transmissions from the Seventh Area Army reported the capture of LT Sargent near Pontianak, Borneo. He had clung to a log for 10 hours and was finally washed ashore ending up caught in fish traps at Cape Satai where he laid nearly a day. Local fishermen captured him on 22 December, 1944 and took him to 22 Naval Base Unit Garrison at Pontianak. He was interrogated in the Pontianak Haken Tai on 26 December, 1944, sent by plane to Surabaja in Java to the Headquarters of the 2nd Southern Expeditionary Fleet and brought to Singapore in March 1945.


45. Two men died in that region. LT Reymond had received a severe blow to his head and was probably unconscious when thrown overboard. His companion, CPL Craft was reported drowned. Both bodies were probably washed ashore on Maja Island close to the west coast of Borneo.

TIMOR (Romang Island – Northeast of Timor)

46. 17 January, 1945 – One conclusion that can be drawn, is that WO Willersdorf, L/CPL Pace and PTE Warne had set a pre-arranged rendezvous with the other 3 crew members. They probably kept vigil for the return of their companions until a set date and then decided to resume their journey. for Australia.

47. They travelled along the west coast of Borneo and across the south of that region stopping at Cape Puting on the way. PTE Warne was too sick to continue and he was left on Kadapongan Island (about 5 weeks to Darwin) and navigated south of Borneo thus using the shortest possible route home. They sopped on Doang Doangan Island and on Dewakang Island to find food and water and sailed 150 miles further south reaching Kaju Adi Island located off the tip of Celebes and stayed six hours the island. During that time the villagers gave them food water. They resumed their voyage moving across the Banda sea, travelling 600 miles to the north of Timor through drift and currents reaching Romang Island about 350-400 miles from Australia or 10-12 days by sea trip, after an epic voyage in a Kolek of some 2000 miles through enemy held territory. They arrived on Romang Island on 17 January, 1945.

48. They were captured two days later, betrayed by a local village chief and taken to 48 Division in Dilli.

49. Routine Japanese radio messages that were intercepted and decyphered by ULTRA gave indication to both Allied forces and the Japanese High Command that two Australian POWs had ‘confessed’ in prison. The evidence leaves no doubt that intensive bashing, torture and starvation was the normal routine for the prisoners. Many of them were left to die, their wounds uncared for and many also died as a result of malnutrition. (Appendix E)

50. By 21 January, 1945, 7 Area Army Staff 2 Singapore were informed of the capture and whereabouts of the other Rimaus. On the 25 January, 16 Army of which 48 Division in Timor was part knew about the Rimaus’ activities including the SBs. A decrypted message sent to Singapore gave warning of PTE Warne marooned in Kadapongan.

51. Testimony from two ex POWs imprisoned in Dilli brought some light into the fate of WO Willersdorf and CPL Pace based on the discovery of three graves which contained the bodies of Australian POWs. The graves were found on a hill 200 yards south east of the Dilli prison. It is easy to conjure up a picture of the situation in Dilli as there are numerous references made on the fate of the Dilli POWs, some with gangrened wounds, uncared for and left to die. It is assumed that both Operatives died alone in their cells, WO Willersdorf who was seriously injured, his wounds crawling with maggots, in March 1945 and CPT Pace from starvation in June 1945. (29)

KADAPONGAN ISLAND – (South West of Laoet Island, Pulau Lao, Southeast tip of Borneo, 4-5 weeks of Darwin).

52. December 1944 to March 1945 – In retrospect, PTE Warne’s stay on Kadapongan was accidental as he became too delirious with fever to keep up with his companions but he nevertheless recovered. Local eyewitnesses saw him in a small native boat negotiating his way in narrow inlets. PTE Warne managed to evade Japanese patrols until March 1945. It may be that he remained on the island confident that WO Willersdorf and CPL Pace would bring back a SRD team to rescue him.

53. ULTRA intercepts indicated that the Japanese, aware of pTE Warne’s presence sent the Naval Police from Banjarmasin in 7-orneo to search for him. They caught him in March 1945 and took him to Surabaja where he was brutally interrogated. PTE Warne died one month later, either as a result of untreated wounds in prison or left to die at 102 Naval Hospital, Surabaja.

SELAJAR ISLAND (North of Singkept Island)

54. By 15 December, 1944 the Rimau Operatives were reduced to 12 members and it is plausible that they grouped in two boat parties:

Boat Party 1:
CAPT Page; A/B Marsh; A/B Falls; A/B Huston; SGT Gooley; CPL Fletcher;

Boat Party 2:
MAJ Ingleton; L/CPL Hardy; Lt Carey; CPL Stewart; WO Warren; SGT Cameron.

55. According to a villager interviewed in the 1980s, one boat party went to Buaja Island. Another left for Temiang and soon departed for Selajar Island, whilst a third party travelled to Sebangka. Assuredly, the party sought shelter, island hopping until driven out of them by Japanese soldiers.

56. On 15 December a Japanese patrol interrogated inhabitants on Selajar threatening them of the consequences if they failed to disclose information on the Rimau fugitives. Between 15 and 20 December the Japanese completed a series of raids on Selajar, Buaja and Gentung Islands in the Lingga Archipelago. Several of the remaining Servicemen were seen by locals cruising down the Lingga Archipelago heading towards Sumatra, but the patrol finally caught up with them.


57. 15 December 1944 – Six of the Rimau crew were discovered by a Japanese patrol at 0930 local time. A/B Huston was killed, the others managed to escape.

58. 16 December 1944 – A/B Falls was captured at approximately 0930 local time. He was admitted to Dabo Police Station on Singkept Island on 18 December. (Admission No 19)

59. 18 December 1944 – CAPT Page was hidden in a but armed with a loaded revolver when the Japanese broke into his but at about 1630 hours local time. According to the Japanese account

CAPT Page told his interrogator that he had surrendered because hoc, was hungry, cold and wet, suffering from exhaustion and a feeling that he was doomed anyway. CAPT Page was admitted to Dab() Police Station on December 19. (Admission No. 21)

60. 19 December 1944 – SGT Gooley and CPL Fletcher were P on Selajar Island and admitted to Dabo Police Station on19 December. (Admission Nos. 20 and 23) (30)

61. 20 December 1944 – A/B Marsh was captured on Selajar :stand and admitted to Dabo Police Station on December 28/29. (Admission No. 36). According to the Japanese account he died from untreated malaria shortly after arrival in Singapore possibly between 7 and 10 January, 1945. (31) However, it is more than likely that he succumbed after extensive torture at Kempei Tai Headquarters.

BUAJA ISLAND (Lingga Archipelago)

62. 16 December 1944 – There is an indication that SGT Cameron died presumably from drowning at the southern end of Buaja at about 1030 hours local time.

63. 16 December 1944 – LT Carey and WO Warren were admitted to Dabo on 28/29 December. (Admission No. 36)

64. January 1945 – CPL Stewart was trapped on Buaja Island without a boat and provisions. He was picked up by the Kempei Tai between 8-10 January.

GENTUNG ISLAND. (One mile from Buaja near Tjempah Island)

65. 18 DECEMBER 1944 – MAJ Ingleton and CPL Hardy (wounded in the shoulder when caught) were captured by the Kempei Tai at about 1554 hours local time and admitted to Dabo Police Station on 19 December. (Admission Nos. 24 and 25)

66. 66. On 8 January 1945 three men spent the night at Tanjong Pinang on Bintan Island while on their way to Singapore. A local, the Amir of Silalahi, attested that nine white prisoners had been gaoled in Dabo prior to their transfer to Singapore. Six prisoners left on the 23 December, 1944 and 3 others on the 8 January, 1945. CPL Stewart arrived some time later. (32)


67. The Suijo Kempei Tai took custody of the ten Servicemen. They were kept in Tanjong Pagar Police Station from 8 January, 1945 until March 1945 for interrogation.

68. 68. As indicated (Paragraph 4) LTCOL Wild commented in favorable terms on Japanese treatment of the Rimau prisoners:

..’Treatment was quite exceptionally good by Jap standards. Prisoners were allowed
special privileges and were NOT tortured. All remained in excellent spirits. Well- disposed Jap interpreter supplied them regularly with books, chocolate and cigarettes.’


69. Japanese military police known as Kempei Tai had acquired a sinister reputation in their inhuman methods of handling prisoners disabling hundreds of them through torture and brutal force during the process of extracting highly sensitive military information. (34) Ronald McKie in his book, ‘The Heroes’, and Furuta, who had been an interpreter for the Seventh Area Army emphasized that obstinate prisoners were not given food and drink for 2 to 3 days, by which time they began to divulge secrets. Another view which emerged is the assumption that Japanese interrogators might have stopped mishandling the Rimau Servicemen once they had obtained a full assessment on Operation Rimau.

70. From 24 December 1944 to 7 January 1945 the Japanese High Command were clear on many aspects of Operation Rimau. 17or example, the size of the party, name of its leader, number o; officers, nationality of the Rimaus and the technical features of the ‘Sleeping Beauties’. On 9 January 1945 the :ni-elligence Branch (Staff 2) of the Seventh Area Army were tasked to extract further information on the Operation. By 10 FPbruarY, 1945 further knowledge on the Operation was obtained. Staff 2 was now aware that the Rimaus spent two months in formal technical training in small submarines prior to their departure from Fremantle on 11 September, 1944. However, the Japanese were still engaged in investigating the planned purpose of the secret equipment.


71. On 10 February the Seventh Area Army, Singapore dispatched a message by wireless to all Chiefs of Staff and Commanders of Base Forces in Japanese occupied territories. This message was picked up by Allied Intercept Stations and the Japanese cipher was decrypted by ULTRA. It reads:
‘We want to punish the sabotage units which infiltrated from Australia and were captured in the Singapore area recently. Although the matter will in each case be left up to the unit concerned, we wish the investigations to be such that no one is left to do harm afterward. Since it has been sufficiently proved that this group clearly intended to infiltrate and perpetrate sabotage, in violation of international law and the conventions of warfare, we plan to refer the matter to a military tribunal and punish it firmly and strictly as a serious war crime.’

The ten prisoners were then transferred to Outram Road Gaol in March 1945. OUTRAM ROAD GAOL

72. According to the evidence treatment of prisoners was appalling for both locals and whites. Prisoners were subjected to unprovoked aggression by Japanese guards; on men too sick to work and those condemned to death. Routine beating was done indiscriminately with sword scabbard or Jujitsu hold on prisoners who were punched and kicked. Accommodation consisted of a cell originally built for one Asiatic. Three prisoners shared one cell which was contaminated with filth and crawling with vermin. Food consisted of a starvation diet of 17 or 18 ounces of rice per day. A former inmate confined within 50-70 yards of the Rimaus and able to peer through the slot in his cell door could see that the Rimau prisoners received the same ration to that of the other POWs. Those on the sick list had their food cut down and became too weak to stand up. There were many cases of Beri-Beri, Scabies, Malaria, Dysentry and numerous other diseases to which most prisoners succumbed as medical treatment was non-existent.

73. It is evident that the Rimaus were subjected to torture. From the testimony of an ex POW, the ten Rimaus, although isolated, were sometimes seen by other prisoners at ?utram Road Gaol when emptying latrines. One Rimau reported :hat ‘they were being treated pretty badly – one of them had his feet burned’. An American airman prisoner at Outram Road gaol who had been tortured, neglected and starved during his incarceration made reference to the three Australian prisoners who cleaned the Rimau cells after the Rimaus’ execution. The cells were blood-stained and their clothes soaked in blood. (38) After the war Major Kobayashi, Commandant of the Military Section of the Gaol faced charges concerning the deaths of 1500 risoners during his term as O.C. (39)

TRIAL – 3 JULY, 1945

74. MAJOR Kamiya of Seventh Area Army, Singapore affirmed that the legal section of the Seventh Area Army was anxious to follow correct legal procedures. Major Kamiya in his judicial functions as the prosecutor, consulted MAJGEN Hidaka, General Commander of the Judicial Department of Southern Expeditionary Force in Saigon on 20 April, 1945. There is however difficulty in proving this in the absence of witnesses and as mentioned (Paragraph 4) Japanese took great care in destroying masses of evidence before surrender. However, about one month after the visit, the General Commander, in Saigon instructed the Prosecutor that ‘a demand for capital punishment should be judicial’ (40). The ten Rimau prisoners were taken to the Raffles College in Singapore to stand trial on charges of ‘perfidy and espionage’ on 3 July, 1945.

Three judges presided at the Court Martial, namely:
COL Masayoshi, Towatari
MAJ Mitsuo, Jifusu
MAJ Miyoshi, Hisada

MAJ Kamiya, was the Prosecutor and the findings of the Court were ratified by MAJGEN Ohtsuka.

75. The Japanese Field General Courts Martial judicial system prescribes that when a Japanese Serviceman is found guilty he is not entitled to the privilege of a Defending Officer. Under Article 346 of the Japanese Code of Criminal Procedure when a Japanese has made a confession the military court does not seek further evidence for cross-examination. Japanese military law is almost identical with that of the British/Australian jurisdictions in respect to an accused whereby the accused is deemed to be innocent until proved guilty. When an accused pleads guilty, British/Australian law provides in Paragraph 47 that:

‘If the accused pleads “guilty” to a charge, the president…must, before recording the plea, carefully explain to him the nature of the charge and the effect of his plea. It should also be pointed out to him that on a plea of “guilty” there will be no regular trial but merely a consideration by the Court of the sentence to be awarded’. (Paragraph 75) in The Manual of Military Law, (Australian edition, 1941)

76. What happened during the trial is both controversial and debatable given there is no certainty that the judicial rocess was executed through an interpreter nor is there conclusive proof that the accused were given the chance to defend themselves. A dubious report possibly issued by the Judicial Department of Seventh Area Army or written after the event explains how MAJ Kamiya having studied all the documents related to the Rimau prisoners began to interrogate them from the end of March until the middle of April, 1945. MAJ Kamiya then reported to MAJGEN Otsuka. One cannot dismiss the thought that the ten Rimaus were coerced to ‘confession’ in order for the Japanese to provide for this legal aspect in Court. At the ‘trial’ the Japanese reported that the Rimaus moved the ‘Mustaka’ close to Japanese naval anchorages to allow MAJ Ingleton to sketch Japanese ships and naval installations whilst CAPT Page took photographs. They also exhibited LT Carey’s diary as further proof of their guilt. It must be said that Japanese law on acts of sabotage and espionage is similar to many other nations which would provide the death penalty in similar circumstances. (42) The second South Seas Expeditionary Fleet Military Court followed adequate judicial and administrative processes in their legal interpretative decisions. These were within the bounds of Japanese legal justice as it applied to the killings at Kasoe Island and the Rimaus’ intention to blow up Japanese ships and establishments. The Japanese had been given an earlier warning with the successful 1943 Jaywick Operation.


77. The Chief of the Judicial Department of the Seventh Area Army in Singapore, MAJGEN Ohtsuka ordered the death sentence for the ten prisoners in June 1945.

78. In the lengthy report MAJ Kamiya produced after the Japanese surrender, he stated:

‘These heroes must have left Australia with sublime patriotism flaming in their hearts and with the wholehearted expectations of all the Australian people on their shoulders. The last moment of a hero must be glorious. It must be dramatic. Heroes have more regard for their reputations than anything else. As we respect them, so we feel our duty of glorifying their last moments as they deserve: and by our doing so the names of these heroes will remain in the heart of the British and Australian people for evermore. In these circumstances, I consider that a death sentence should be given to each of the accused.’ (45)

MAJ R.M. Ingleton shows that the Rimaus shared a common grave Map Reference 759113. It also showed that their bodies had Been stripped of badges of rank and no other means of identification were present in the graves. Their remains now rest at Kranji War Memorial, Singapore in a common grave identified by ten separate named headstones.