Bell tolls again


Verified SOF
Jan 15, 2008

The story of the two missions The Krait and Z Special Unit did are well known in Oz.

Bell tolls again for Krait heroes

IT is the bell Australian commandos "liberated" from a visiting merchant ship in 1944 to adorn their vessel, the Krait, which one year before had sneaked into enemy waters in Singapore harbour, covertly carrying Australian soldiers to successfully blow up seven Japanese ships.
Later in its life - after being rescued from the dry-docked Krait about 40 years later by Australian rugby union legend, Wallabies captain and former commando Bill McLean - the clanging of the bell woke sleeping drunks slumped on the bar of McLean's Brisbane pub, the Clarence Corner Hotel.

It was later moved to Ballymore, the home of Queensland rugby union, where the bell was rung furiously at the half-time and full-time marks of many a hard-fought Test match. When McLean retired, the bell travelled with him to his Gold Coast house, then to the Lions Haven aged-care home, where old World War II Diggers used to queue up to ring the historic bell.

Former commando Allan Miles rediscovered the bell last year when he was contacted by the retired former matron of Lions Haven.
She had taken it to her home for safe keeping after McLean's death in 1996, and had read about Mr Miles' expedition to retrace the Krait's heroic voyage.

And today, for the first time in more than two decades, the bell and Krait will be reunited, in a ceremony at the Australian National Maritime Museum in Sydney, where the boat is on display.
Mr Miles, who will attend with Bill McLean's family, said the reunion of bell and boat was a historically important one. "It's taken me almost a year to have the bell authenticated," he said. "It's been examined by the heritage collection of the Royal Australian Navy and the curators at the War Memorial.

"I've shown it to the commandos. You can see the tears well up in their eyes. The bell is revered as being the soul of the ship, the spirit of the ship."

Ian McLean, son of Bill, said returning the bell to the boat was what his father desired.
McLean senior, as head of Queensland's commando association, had taken the bell for safe-keeping in the early 1980s, worried it would be pilfered as the ship sat in a Brisbane dry dock.
"He became keeper of the bell and vowed it would not be returned to the ship until it was safely in a museum," Ian McLean told The Australian.
"It was one of dad's last wishes."
The bell is expected to be donated to the Australian War Memorial, and is likely to be displayed in Canberra.
The Krait, named after a deadly species of Indian snake, was a modest-looking 21m Japanese fishing trawler, used to evacuate people from Singapore to Sumatra during the Japanese advance.
But it led a secret double life during World War II.
In 1943, the Krait was used by Australian commandos for the covert mission Operation Jaywick, in which the boat sailed undetected into Japanese-occupied Singapore, allowing the soldiers to blow up seven ships.