"Z" Special Unit had a secret camp known as Camp Z located on the top of a cliff at Cowan Creek, at Refuge Bay (Broken Bay), north of Sydney. It was located about 4 miles west of Palm Beach. Food and supplies for Camp Z were brought in a 14 foot boat from Coal and Candle Creek. Some sources seem to suggest that this camp was known as "Camp X". Can anyone please confirm?


Photo:- Terry Gallaway

Camp Z at Refuge Bay, New South Wales


In early September 1942, 11 naval ratings trained at Camp Z. From their ranks, the members of Operation Jaywick were to be selected. Jaywick involved an attack on Japanese shipping in Singapore Harbour on 26/27 September 1943 in the battered Japanese coastal vessel "Krait".

The men were required to access the beach below the cliff by bosun's chair and they would then climb back up the cliff by swing-climbing on a rope. They trained for about 18 hours per day for 3 solid months. They were not allowed access to cigarettes, alcohol or female company for the whole 3 months. They were plagued by snakes and some very hot days.

They learnt how to use and disassemble and reassemble in the dark, their rifle, a Bren Gun, a Lewis Gun, an Owen Gun and a Sten Gun. They had concentrated physical fitness training which included canoeing. They learnt techniques for moving silently through water and the bush and various camouflage techniques. They learnt, bushcraft and how to use a compass and a map. They learnt how to transport and set explosive charges. They learnt how to sneak up on an enemy guard and kill them using a knife, cord, or other weapons.

They rowed their canoes across Broken Bay and up and down the Hawkesbury River. They also carried out mock attacks on the West Head Defences and other military camps in the general area.

Towards the end of the 3 month of intensive training, Bill Reynolds brought the "Krait" from Sydney and anchored her off Camp Z. Davidson then selected 5 men from the 11 trainees who would become members of  "Jock Force", who would carry out Operation Jaywick.

The "Krait" left Camp Z on 18 January 1943. headed for Cairns in tropical north Queensland. On board were:-

Bill Reynolds
Lt. D. Davidson
Cpl. R.G. Morris
Acting Able Seaman W.G. Falls
Acting Able Seaman A.W. Huston
Acting Able Seaman F.W. Marsh
Acting Able Seaman M.M. Berryman
Acting Able Seaman A.M.W. Jones

There is now very little evidence of Camp Z. Just a few retaining rocks can be seen where the camp used to be.

On about 6th or 7th December 1942,  an official ceremony took place at Refuge Bay after the Governor General of Australia, Lord  Gowrie, arrived in secret with high ranking officers. David Donaldson, a member of Operation Jaywick and later Rimau, took some photos of the ceremony at Refuge Bay because the organiser of the VIP visitors forgot to take a camera. After the war the RAN Defence Dept "borrowed" the photos from the vets and they were taken to Woolomoloo Naval Headquarters for printing. They were classed as secret.  When the men from Jaywick asked for their personal photos to be retuned they were told "later". 

Ex Coastwatcher Jack Carr Mackay (Service No. B3683) remember his time at the Refuge Bay Training Camp. He remembers it as "Camp X". He remembers having to climb the cliffs at the camp site loaded up with all their gear. He remembers that the tents were already erected when his group of 18 men arrived at the camp. They had a special galley for the cook, and an open stove. They were only fed two meals a day.

They slept four to a tent and Jack was with two of his friends along with someone else from Queensland. They used a crevice in the rocks as their toilet facilities.

He remembers the waterfall which provided fresh clear water. There was also a small pool area in front of their tents. They had an ammunition tent down on the sandy beach and kept their canoes down there. 

Their duties included the bullring, unarmed combat, day and night walks, and regular running walks and finally using the canoes. Besides normal handling of the canoes and long journeys in them, they were required to learn to pull them apart and reassemble them in about a 15 minute timeframe.

Their demolition training had the side benefit of providing fresh fish for their meals. They would carry out night time "commando attacks" on corvettes moored out in the bay. They would wear balaclavas and blacken their faces. They would draw a cross inside a circle on the side of the corvette to prove they had been there. When they became more proficient they would board the ship and remove an item from the ship as evidence of their presence onboard. HMAS Inverell co-operated with Naval Commando personnel ("Z" Special Unit") at Broken Bay in an attack and repelling of boarders exercise. HMAS Inverell departed Broken Bay at 0600L hours on Friday 6 November 1942 and arrived in Sydney at 0855L hours.


AWM ID P01806.009

17 January 1943, Camp Area at Refuge Bay training camp for Z Special Unit


AWM ID 067336A

17 January 1943 Leading Seaman Frederick W.L. "Boof" Marsh and Ordinary
Seaman L.K. "Tiny" Hage, members of Z Special Unit training for Operation
Jaywick in a two man canoe. MV Krait can be seen moored in the background.


Photo:- Peter Dunn 2 Mar 2008

Jack Mackay, volunteer Guide and ex Coast Watcher, with Gus Breymann at the
MacArthur Museum Brisbane. Jack Mackay was one of the many men who trained at Refuge Bay.


Photo:- Murray Harris

The waterfall area. The men used to hide their canoes in a cave behind the waterfall


Photo:- Murray Harris

Side view of the waterfall


Photo:- Murray Harris

Rock at Refuge Bay with a plaque commemorating the
Z Special Unit training camp on this location during WWII


Photo:- Murray Harris

Plaque on a rock at Refuge Bay


Photo:- Murray Harris

Rock at Refuge Bay with names engraved - names include Kestrel, Hawk Eye,


Photo:- Murray Harris

View of the beach from the top of the cliff



I'd like to thank Steve Matthews for his assistance with this home page.

I'd also like to thank Murray Harris of Murray Harris Photography and David Hitchcock Clipper Cruiser Holidays at Akuna Bay for their assistance with this web page.

I would also like to thank Janelle Sparks, daughter of Jack Mackay, for her assistance with this web page.

I'd also like to thank Terry Gallaway of Sky News for his assistance with this web page.



"The Heroes"
by Ronald McKie

"Manly Daily", 25 March 2000
Article by Danielle Teutsch (does anyone have a copy of this article?)

"Coaster's Retreat History"
by Jim Macken


Can anyone help me with more information?


"Australia @ War" WWII Research Products

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 Peter Dunn 2015


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This page first produced 16 April 2003

This page last updated 04 March 2020