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Rare WWII Australian commando kayak found

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#1 forenaft



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Posted 24 June 2011 - 08:28 AM

WWII Commando folboat veteran found under suburban house.

A surprise discovery was made recently when a lady in Ringwood Victoria Australia asked a local boat reparier to remove an ‘old canoe’ from under her house. On dragging it out and inspecting the contents of two bags, the boatman Carl Shadbolt realised that they contained a 1943 folboat, still in remarkable condition. The lady explained that her husband had used the boat for fishing trips in the late 40s.

Folboat enthusiast Jack Scott later bought the folboat and had it shipped to his home in Sydney. On further inspection, Jack rightly thought that the craft had something to do with Australian commandos during the war. He contacted Australian wartime folboat authority John Hoehn who explained that given the very early serial number, date and manufacturer on the identity plate it was indeed a war veteran. In fact it is now considered the earliest remaining Australian WWII folboat.

John was able to ascertain that it had seen service with our Australian commandos at either 'Z' Unit Cairns, Fraser Island, or Mount Martha training camps prior to embarking on secret Z raids such as the well publicised Jaywick and Rimau operations. Jack has now donated the folboat to the Australian War Museum Canberra where Chris Goddard, who considers the find important, is supervising restoration. It should be on view when fully restored.

John had been researching Australian folboats for some time and has now published a book Commando Kayak on the subject. It traces the history from the raging white waters of Switzerland in 1924 to the end of the Pacific war and contains copies of the original folboat technical drawings, plus the original patent drawing. The National Secretary of the RSL, Derek Robson AM has written a foreword for the book. More information about these remarkable craft can be found on the website: www.hirschbooks.net

‘SRD Melbourne’, which stood for Services Reconnaissance Department was clearly marked on the two carry bags. It was the cover name for the highly secret military intelligence organisation, initially headed by Singapore veteran Major Mott. Until now, little was known about these remarkable craft. National documents marked as ‘Secret’ have only been recently released. They reveal that, had it not been for a Swiss immigrant, Australian commandos may have been greatly disadvantaged in carrying out their secret and daring operations.

Many of these folboats were manufactured by the author’s father in a Melbourne suburbs backyard workshop, but not without skulduggery and chicanery from those who controlled the contracts. The first two folboats were rushed to Major Lyon’s highly secret Camp-X at Refuge Bay, NSW, where he was training commandos for Operation Jaywick. Some were also later used in the ill-fated Operation Rimau. The commandos blew up many Japanese ships in Singapore Harbor by paddling noislessly during the night and placing magnetic mines on the hulls.

The role of the folboat in Australian war history may have to be re-written, as it is now realised that their development and production was largely an 'Australian-Swiss' effort. To confirm any of this information, contact details can be supplied.
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#2 forenaft



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Posted 24 June 2011 - 08:44 AM

The Australian MKIII folboat being tested by Jack Scott. 'Z' Unit SRD markings can be clearly seen on the two bags. The nameplate number now indicates that this is the earliest known MKIII still existing.

Attached File  Scott Hedley Ident.Plate 199,whole.jpg   63.85KB   8 downloads

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#3 Spitfire_XIV



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Posted 24 June 2011 - 09:28 AM

A very interesting find! :)

#4 Skipper



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Posted 24 June 2011 - 10:45 AM

Good find, thanks for sharing this !


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