WWII Veteran found under house. (a FOLBOAT)

20 June 2011

Hello Mac 

How are you in old Melbourne town!

I would be pleased if you can place this on to your website, as I think it would be very interesting to your readers.

Also there is a new website for my books:   www.hirschbooks.net     open, then click on HOME

Best regards,

John Hoehn

WWII ‘veteran’ found under suburban house.

A surprise discovery was made recently when a lady in Ringwood Victoria 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, Romaine Beatty, explained that her husband had used the boat for fishing trips in the late 40s.

Kayak 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 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. John was able to ascertain that this folboat 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.

‘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.

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. The National Secretary of the RSL, Derek Robson AM has written a foreword for the book.

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 partly re-written after we realise that their development and production was largely an Aussie-Swiss effort. Jack has now donated the folboat to the Australian War Museum, Canberra where Chris Goddard is supervising restoration. It should be on view when fully restored. More information about these remarkable craft and the new book can be found on the website: www.hirschbooks.net   Click: HOME

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*Europe daylight hours pls.

John Hoehn: Am Rain 2, 8804 Zurich Switzerland. john.hoehn@bluewin.ch  *Tel.+41447812744

Jack Scott: 11/18 Hardie St. Darlinghurst 2010 cineimage@internode.on.net  Tel.02 9360 3047 / 4 0994 9363

Chris Goddard, Campbell ACT 2612 chris.goddard@awm.gov.au

Romaine Beatty, 19 Panfield Ave Ringwood, Vic 3134. Tel. 03 9870 1725

Carl Shadbolt,  boat repairer, Warrandyte Sth, Vic 3134 shad1234pc@live.com  Tel. 03 9812 2453

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