"Z" SPECIAL UNIT
IN AUSTRALIA DURING WW2
|visits since 30 June 2001|
In March 1942, General Douglas MacArthur approved the establishment of an offshoot of the British Special Operation Executive (SOE) in Australia. This idea had been proposed by General Blamey. In London the new organisation was known as Special Operation Australia (SOA) but it was given a cover name in Australia, where it was known as Inter Allied Services Department (IASD). This acronym was usually shortened to ISD.
Some SOE British Officers who had escaped to Australia from Singapore, formed the nucleus of ISD at its headquarters in Melbourne. In June 1942, the Australian service personnel in ISD were administered by a holding company known as "Z" Special Unit. "Z" Special Unit mostly American equipment rather than British. The unit was sometimes incorrectly referred to as "Z" Force.
"Z" Special Unit Commandos were trained at:-
- Fraser Commando School (FCS) located on Fraser Island off the Queensland coast near Maryborough
- Cairns (Z-ES) (The "House on the Hill")
- Richmond (PTU) - parachute training unit
- Camp Z, located at Cowan Creek, Refuge Bay (Broken Bay), north of Sydney
- Camp Tabragalba (Camp "X") near Beaudesert
- Careening Bay (CBC) near Garden Island in Western Australia. Also called the Special Boat School.
- Mount Martha Research Station ( MMRS)
- Underground Methods School (UMS) - where was this located? Perhaps north Queensland?
- Peak Hill - preliminary training for Timorese
- Leyburn, Queensland (PTU) - parachute training unit transferred from Richmond in May 1945
- School for Eastern Interpreters - Initially at Fraser Commando School, then Mount Martha, then Park Orchards, Melbourne
In 1943 some ambitious officers of the Allied Intelligence Bureau (AIB) wanted to strike the Japanese in their secure strongholds. 28 year old Captain Ivan Lyon of the Gordon Highlanders teamed up with 61 year old Australian Bill Reynolds and hatched a plan to attack the Japanese in Singapore harbour where they would launch collapsible canoes carrying commandos who would attach limpet mines to the Japanese shipping. The Plan was approved by General Wavell.
It was considered too difficult to sneak into Singapore Harbour from the west, hence SOE decided to send Lyon to Australia to develop a plan to come from the south east.
Bill Reynolds owned a battered Japanese coastal vessel (21.3 m x 3.3 m) called the Kofuku Maru, in which he used to take scores of refugees out of Singapore. Reynolds later renamed the vessel the Krait. Lyon's idea was eventually taken up and it was decided by Lieutenant Colonel G.S. Mott, Chief of the Services Reconnaissance Department, to test the effectiveness of the plan by raiding a tightly guarded allied port. He mentioned the idea to Lieutenant Sam Carey, of the AIF, who chose Townsville for the attack.
"Z" Special Unit Supply Bunkers at Mackenzies, Fraser Island
Special Unit Commandos invade Townsville
The Defence of Townsville Harbour
"Miegunyah" - Safe House for "Z" Special Unit Commandos
Ernest Gregg (NX7435, AK157) - "Z" Special Unit Commando
Subject: "Z" Force
From: John Hosie [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Date: 17 February 2000
Just happened to 'fall' into your site. Very well set out. Do you know where I could get a list of all members who were in 'Z' Force in WW11? My dad was in the RAAF, and his three brothers were in the Army. My husband and I have been trying to confirm some information given to us by a family member, re one of the brothers. Supposedly he was a member of 'Z' Force.
His name was Robert HENRY and he came from Melbourne.
Subject: Australia @ War
Date: Thu, 11 Jan 2001 00:34:03 +1100
From: "Stuart Hyde" <email@example.com>
I enjoyed looking through your Australia @ War site and reading many of the interesting extracts of information.
Do you have any more information about the functions and missions of "Z Special" . My grandfather was in this unit and is still very reluctant to this day to talk about his time in PNG and particularly his Units chance aeroplane landing on spotting lights at Charters Towers in Queensland in a plane doomed to crash (not sure what year). His name is Douglas Kenneth Robbins (Ken Robbins). I would be very interested if you could even perhaps point me in the right direction of any literature that might be around on Z Special also.
Subject: Z Special Force
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2001 00:08:11 +1000
From: "sharon philp" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I have been searching through various sites looking for information on (my great uncle) Kevin Caine nicked name Cobber Caine, who was in the Z Special Force and was on the Krait. He also was on This Is Your Life around 1979, 80.
His best mate was a man called Patty who was also on the Krait with him.
If you have any information no matter how small , or of a website with some information on him, it would be greatly appreciated.
Thankyou for your time
Subject: Z Special
Date: Mon, 2 Jul 2001 04:44:40 +1000
From: "PCS" <email@example.com>
My father was part of the Z Special Forces and I am interested in finding out any information. Could you please provide me any link URLs where I may find out detailed information?
Subject: Z Special
Date: Thu, 12 Jul 2001 08:35:15 -0000
From: "Dave Foster" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Hi my name is Dave I'm 14 and i was wondering if u had a listing of members of the Z force and any pictures as well.
my grandad was in Z force his name was Desmond Foster. um i know he was in Borneo.
I'd like to thank Graham Shirley for his assistance with this home page.
"'War By Stealth - Australians and the Allied Intelligence Bureau
1942-1945" (Melbourne University Press, 1996)
by Alan Powell's
"Silent Feet - The History of "Z"
Special Operations 1942 - 1945"
by G.B. Courtney, MBE, MC
"I Didn't Know That"
"Cairns and Districts, Tully to Cape York, 1939-1946,
Service Personnel and Civilians"
By Vera Bradley (1943 AAMWS)
"The History of Townsville Harbour 1864 - 1979"
By H.J. Taylor
© Peter Dunn 2003
This page first produced 30 June 2001
This page last updated 26 May 2007