One of the items held in the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Technology Centre is an Imperial Japanese Navy Shinyo (‘Ocean Shaker’ or “Sea Quaker) suicide boat. It is believed to be one of only two extant examples of a complete Shinyo and it can be viewed by members of the public during the bi-annual Big Things in Store 2022 open day which is occurring on the 5th of March (see below for more information).
The development of these boats began in 1943 but was given a boost in March 1944 when the Imperial Japanese Army’s Warship Research Institute at Himeji, near Kobe, was directed to devote considerable effort to the development of “special (attack) boats”. A month later the Imperial Japanese Navy issued a similar directive. The Army developed the Maru-ni boat and the Navy created the Shinyo which is the type held in the AWM collection.
By the summer of 1944 both the Army and Navy were beginning to deploy suicide boat squadrons, consisting of volunteer ‘pilots’ who were told that their duties were to be ‘special’, i.e. suicidal. By November 1944, some 650 pilots and 2,500 support personnel were available for the Navy’s Shinyo squadrons alone, with Shinyo Squadrons 1–5 sent to Chichijima and Hahajima in the Bonin Islands, while Squadrons 6–13, with a total strength of 300 boats were sent to Corregidor in the Philippines. Others, including the Army boats were deployed to Okinawa and smaller numbers to Korea, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong, but the vast majority were kept along the shores of Japan.
Each Navy squadron consisted of 40 -50 plywood hulled Shinyo that carried a 300kg TNT explosive charge rigged to explode on impact when the crushing of the boat’s bows although on later boats a trigger was added in the cockpit which could also be used to detonate the charge. The boats could achieve a top speed of 20 knots per hour and travel for 31/2 hours at that speed.
The boat crew consisted of a single pilot although one boat in every squadron was crewed by two men, the squadron commander and his pilot. It was intended that in a mass sortie, the commander would bring up the rear, observing the attack and if possible give covering fire from a swivel mounted Type 93 heavy machine gun. Once his men had driven their strike home, the commander would then order his own pilot to attack, detonating the explosive in his own boat in the process. Planners expected about 10% of the craft to hit their targets, but in the face of defensive fire, the results were much lower with only twenty-one allied vessels falling victim to their attacks with the largest being the USS Hutchins, a 2,000 ton destroyer which was damaged on 27th April 1945
The Shinyo in the Australian War Memorial collection was recovered by HMAS Deloraine at Sandakan Harbour, British North Borneo, in October 1945. It was one of six that were discovered in an immediate state of operational readiness complete with fuel tanks filled and ready to be deployed.
This launch was used by sailors from HMAS Deloraine for joy rides and as a ski boat on Sandakan Harbour. It returned to Australia with the Deloraine in late 1945 and was presented to the Australian War Memorial. You can learn more about the Shinyo on the AWM’s Collected Podcast Episode 18: Shinyo, available here.
AWM Treloar Technology Centre – Big Things in Store 2022
Big Things in Store is the Australian War Memorial’s Treloar Technology Centre’s bi-annual open day. It presents a are opportunity for visitors to see one of the world’s largest collections of military relics, including aircraft, rockets, tanks and artillery. The collection spans centuries, including artillery pieces dating from the mid-1870s, as well as artefacts from the twentieth century and more recent conflicts.
The next even is on Saturday 5 March from 9 am (last session entry at 2.45 pm)
All visitors (including minors) will require a free 2 hour timed ticket to enter the event and visitors are required to comply with all COVID Safe requirements. This may include requirements to wear face masks, maintaining physical distancing from others, and check-in using the Check IN CBR app
To book a ticket for the 5 March 2022 open day go to this link
Australian War Memorial Treloar Technology Centre
6 – 10 Callan Street
Mitchell, ACT 2911
Phone: +61 (02) 6243 4211