• Simon Biggs

Major Reginald Ingleton Executed by Beheading - 7 July 1945 - Operation Rimau


Operation Rimau was an attack on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour, carried out by an Allied commando unit Z Special Unit, during World War II using Australian built Hoehn military MKIII folboats. It was a follow-up to the successful Operation Jaywick which had taken place in September 1943, and was again led by Lieutenant Colonel Ivan Lyon of the Gordon Highlanders, an infantry regiment of the British Army.

Ivan Lyon, now a lieutenant colonel, believing that the Japanese would not expect another attack on Singapore, proposed a second, larger attack. British Special Operations approved it, and Lyon went to England to check on all the latest materials and equipment. There he examined a large minelaying submarine, the Porpoise, and tried out a Sleeping Beauty (SB), a 13-foot craft that could carry a man at four and one-half knots on the surface of the water or three and one-half knots underwater and had a range of 12 miles on a fully charged battery. The minelaying submarine and SBs were just what he wanted.

He returned to Australia, and at Careening Bay near Fremantle in Western Australia he began selecting and training volunteers for the operation he codenamed Rimau, the Malay word for tiger.

He decided to use four of the men who had been on the Jaywick operation, Davidson, Page, Falls and Huston, and 17 other British and Australian sailors and commandos. Major Reginald Ingleton of the Royal Marines would go with them as an observer, but he quickly joined in as one of the team

Originally part of a much larger operation called Operation Hornbill, the aim of Rimau was to sink Japanese shipping by paddling the folboats in the dark and placing limpet mines on ships. It was originally intended that motorised semi-submersible canoes, known as "Sleeping Beauties", would be used to gain access to the harbour, however, they resorted to folboats.

After the raiding party's discovery by local Malay authorities, a total of thirteen men (including raid commander Lyon) were killed during battles with the Japanese military at a number of island locations or were captured and died of their wounds in Japanese captivity.

In all, 10 of the team including Major Ingleton were brought as prisoners to Singapore. The Japanese considered them warriors in the spirit of Bushido, who had fought and had been captured, not surrendered. They treated them with respect. They were questioned repeatedly but not badly treated even thought they refused to tell anything of real importance about the operation.

At the end of May 1945, a new Japanese commander in Singapore ordered that they be court-martialed. The court martial was held in early July, apparently against strong opposition by many in the Japanese military. The team was accused of being involved in a covert operation, not wearing full military uniform, and displaying the Japanese flag to confuse their enemies. They were found guilty and sentenced to death.

On July 7, approximately one month before World War II in the Pacific came to an end, they were taken to a hill outside Singapore where they talked, smoked last cigarettes, and shook hands with one another. They were then ceremonially executed by the sword in the warrior tradition, their bodies falling into the graves prepared for them.

Later evidence stated it took guards more than half an hour to execute the men, sometimes requiring two or three blows to complete beheading.

After the war, the bodies of the 10 were exhumed and, together with the bodies of those who died on the islands near Singapore, including Ivan Lyon, were buried in the Kranji war cemetery on Singapore Island.

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