As Anzac Day draws nearer, many of our newer residents may not be aware of the important role Cairns and the region played in World War II.
It was here that the brave men of the famous “Z Force” trained for what would be remembered as a most daring and successful raid against enemy shipping in Singapore Harbour in September 1943.
It was at the former home of the first Mayor of Cairns, Richard Kingsford, known as the House on the Hill, where the crew members of the small fishing vessel called the Krait trained for the covert mission which would ultimately result in seven ships in Singapore Harbour being sunk or badly disabled.
Operation Jaywick, as it was known, involved the crew being disguised as Malay fishermen so they could infiltrate enemy territory to carry out their mission.
To prepare for their assignment, the men undertook “raids” on shipping in Townsville Harbour, the catalinas in Cairns Harbour and planes at the Cairns aerodrome. Here they learned how to stealthily attach bombs to the hulls of ships and the bottom of aircraft.
The Krait was originally an old Japanese fishing vessel called the Kofuku Maru which was renamed after a small but deadly snake, and transformed for the mission at the slip near the Stratford Barron River Bridge.
The Krait was used by the Australian military throughout the war, and was present at the surrender of the Japanese forces on Ambon in September 1945.
In fact, the Krait sunk more enemy shipping vessels that any other vessel in the Australian Navy during the war.