Scots commandos led by Queen Mum’s cousin left to die by Americans on daring WWII sub mission
A TEAM of heroic commandos killed in one of the most daring missions of World War II were betrayed by their US allies, it can be revealed today.
The squad of 23 men who died during a risky attempt to sink 60 Japanese warships could have been saved, a new book claims.
But American top brass decided not to mount a rescue mission because it would warn their Japanese enemies that they had cracked their secret naval code.
The deadly mission – which would have devastated the Japanese fleet – was led by Ivan Lyon of the Gordon Highlanders, a Scottish cousin of the Queen Mother.
He was backed by 22 hand-picked volunteers, including Scots Naval Reservist Donald Davidson, Able Seaman “Poppa” Falls and Sub-Lieutenant Gregor Riggs.
The plot was called Operation Rimau – the Malay word for tiger – in honour of a large tiger tattoo on Lyon’s chest.
Lyon’s men planned to infiltrate Singapore harbour in one-man submarines called Sleeping Beauties.
They would then open fire on as many Japanese ships as they could.
Their intelligence suggested they could sink 60 before retreating in their subs and meeting at a nearby south Pacific island.
But on the way to Singapore, the Chinese junk they were aboard was spotted by Japanese police and a gunfight ensued.
Lyon, 29, decided to sink the ship and the Sleeping Beauties rather than let them fall into enemy hands.
He was killed in the shoot-out along with several of his men before the British and Australian forces knew they had come under attack. Ten others were taken prisoner by the Japanese – which US troops learned when they intercepted a message explaining where the men were.
But they decided not t o share t he information so they could continue to use the code.
Tragically, the ship that was meant to collect the commandos after the mission missed the last few men by a matter of hours. The 10 survivors were executed a year later.
Former Sunday Mirror editor Peter Thompson discovered the betrayal after getting access to evidence that had previously been classified by the US military.
His discovery forms the basis of his new book, Kill The Tiger.
He said: “The Americans didn’t let on that they had broken the Japanese code for many years after the war.
“Huge amounts of information about the war was classified but over the years more was made available. “I first heard about Lyon while writing another book about
the war in the South Pacific. It emerged in the process of our research that the Americans hadn’t told the British or Australians that Operation Rimau had run into trouble, so no help was sent.”
Ivan’s son, Clive Lyon, 65, was only three when his father died.
Clive – who also joined the Gordon Highland regiment – claims the book is a fitting tribute to his dad.
He said: “He was a very proud man. He was one of a breed of adventuring Scots – restless and unconventional and this is why he could come up with the fantastic, audacious missions he was part of.
“Ivan was very proud of his Scots heritage and honoured to be in the Gordon Highland regiment.
“I was very young at the time of his death – he was only 29 himself – and unfortunately I can’t really remember him but his legacy certainly lives on.
“The Americans should have done more t o r escue them. The failure to pick up the survivors was tragic but you can’t dwell on it because it would drive you mad.
“It’s much better to remember the great deeds of these heroic men.
“My father was very brave – he was even nominated for the Victoria Cross – and saved hundreds of lives. Not many men can be remembered for that.”
Kill The Tiger, published by Maverick House, i s available to buy now.
Risky: Troops would launch attack in one-man subs called Sleeping Beauties
Hero: Deadly plan was led by Ivan Lyon, right, and named after his tiger tattoo, above