Secret footage of Australian Z Force Commandos in Training...

Discussion in 'WWII' started by mclmm, Mar 3, 2009.

  1. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

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    Australia
    Sorry, no link yet, we're still cleaning it up after the kine process.

    Z Special Unit was part of Special Operations Australia, our own version of SOE and heavily influenced by that organisation in training and equipment.

    This is amazing stuff.

    Wanna see a folboat put together and launched?

    Wanna see a limpet mine prepared and then a hole blown in the side of a ship?

    Boobytrap assemblies?

    Operatives jumping at low level out of a USAAF B24 for a water landing?

    Fairbairn's unarmed combat system in action?

    It's all there and all in glorious colour! It was a lost training film and we managed to get our grubby mitts on it.

    I'll post some snippetts on youtube, and we'll have a DVD available for sale which includes the full half hour of footage. All proceeds go to a museum.

    Here's a screenshot:

    [​IMG]
     
  2. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

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    Location:
    Australia
    Replying to one's own thread is bad form but...

    Notice the strange array of kit the Z Special in the photo is wearing?

    US soft patrol cap
    Camo painted AUSTEN SMG
    US Machete
    Australian Green Shirt
    US HBT trousers
    US Tropical pack

    The scene where all the mission kit is laid out on a tarp is an eye opener...
     
  3. DutchIndo

    DutchIndo A-List Customer

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    Little Saigon formerly GG Ca
    Great can't wait to see it . Last month I bought the movie with Mel Gibson in it. Until then I have never heard of that special unit. In the movie they have silenced "Grease Guns" which is neat.
     
  4. Story

    Story I'll Lock Up

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    Great stuff

    I'll see if I can re-locate it, but I'd stumbled onto a photo of an anglo in the pacific wearing what looked like a US field cap and HBTs, but with a 1921 Thompson and Bren (Pattern 37) ammo pouches.
     
  5. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

    Messages:
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    Location:
    Australia
    Wow.

    We have just had a major coup. In the Z-Special Unit film there is a long segment showing the various unarmed combat techniques used by the unit. Keep in mind this is Fairbairn's unarmed combat system in action and in glorious colour.

    I will post a couple of frame grabs out of the film a little later. The UAC instructor is a short, tenacious little man who throws multiple attackers around like rag dolls.

    We tracked him down. SGT Frank Doyle (Ret.) is 88 years young and he has an amazing story to tell. And, he actually remembers the days the film was shot.

    I'll post a link to our website with the full story, but for now, take a look at his Certificate of Discharge (appears here with permission):

    [​IMG]

    Take a good, long look at the dates of service. This old Digger is a national treasure.

    [​IMG]
    PTE Frank Doyle pre-embarkation to the Middle East, 1940

    Frank not only served with Z Special Unit, he was one of the Rats of Tobruk.
     
  6. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

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    Location:
    Australia
    Here's a screen grab of SGT Frank Doyle in action during an unarmed combat instruction class. This is straight out of Fairbairn's book "Get Tough!".

    [​IMG]

    I'll post some more screen grabs shortly.
     
  7. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

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    Location:
    Australia
    OK, here they are.

    The film is the standard 4:3 aspect ratio and was 16mm. We have been having a devil of a time with the kine machine (converts film footage to video). It's old and has to go to U-Matic before we can digitise it. Then to make matters worse, because it is a government surplus machine, it imprints timecode on every single frame. That is why it is taking so long to clean up. You'll notice that some of the photos below are cropped. They are from frames we haven't removed the timecode from as yet.

    [​IMG]
    Standard Z-Special Unit Gear Layout. Who can identify the items?

    [​IMG]
    Part 2 of the layout above. Notice the green boxes in the top right of the frame. They are Australian Army WWII "Operational Rations". They were a 24 hour ration packed into a tin box and tropicalised.

    [​IMG]
    Folboat (folding kayak) being assembled on the beach at the Fraser Commando School. This is the same sort of craft used on the Z-Special Unit Jaywick mission into Singapore Harbour. There is a full sequence on the film showing one of these craft being fully assembled from two man-packed bundles to launching in the surf.

    [​IMG]
    Z-Special Unit Operatives were often inserted into enemy territory by specially-modified USAAF B24s based at Leyburn near Brisbane. This shot shows a Z-Special immediately after exit. The chute was a static line setup and this was extremely low level. The rest of the sequence shows this bloke from exit to splashdown. He is under the canopy for a maximim of 15 seconds before hitting the water. On operations, they sometimes did this into jungle canopy. Nasty.

    [​IMG]
    Standard limpet mine. These were packed two to a box with a steel plate between them. This shot shows two limpets immediately after being unpacked from their box. The sequence goes on to show the limpet being filled with PE then primed with detcord, before being placed on the hull of the SS Maheno (a 1936 shipwreck on Fraser Island in Queensland).

    [​IMG]
    The Clam. This was a magnetic container designed to be used on vehicles or fuel drums. It could be filled with incendiary or with PE. As shown here it was usually initiated by two pencil timers for redundancy. It is interesting that in the textbooks, the pencil timers are always shown with the spring snouts inserted into the box of the clam itself. According to frank Doyle, this was too inflexible a setup, so det cord was always used to allow the pencil timers to be fastened flush against the box.

    [​IMG]
    A wreath charge takes down the forward mast of the SS Maheno. There is more footage in there of holes being blown in the hull and the exterior wall of the bridge.


    As I said before, we'll post some clips on youtube and the full video will be available for purchase on DVD. PM if you want to pre-order one. No money down till we're ready to ship. We're trying to gauge interest in the DVD so don't be shy.
     
  8. RudyN

    RudyN One of the Regulars

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    Location:
    San Jose, California, USA
    Put me down for a pre-order on the DVD. Thanks for being able to find something like this.
     
  9. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

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    Location:
    Australia
    Most Aussies and some students of the "Secret War" have heard of the Z-Special Unit "Jaywick" mission into Singapore Habour, but less well-known is "Operation Copper" where 8 Z-Specials were tasked with recceing a small island off northern New Guinea called "Muschu Island". This was a prelude to Aussie landings on Wewak on the mainland of New Guinea. Muschu was thought to be hiding several large Japanese coast defence guns and they needed to be taken out before the landing. The big problem was that they were so well hidden that they couldn't be ID'd for an air strike.

    8 men went in and only one made it out. Sapper Mick Dennis, the only survivor of Copper, was awarded the Military Medal for this operation.

    The mission has been fully related in a book by Mick Dennis' nephew called "The Guns of Muschu".

    I would recommend everyone take a read of this book. It's a harrowing tale of human endurance and bravery. Although not a typical Z-Special Unit mission, it illustrates Murphy's Law in action.

    You can read the first chapter and mission reports at the book's website http://www.gunsofmuschu.com

    For a summary of the operation told on Australian radio a few years ago by Mick Dennis himself, download this .mp3 audio file: http://www.gunsofmuschu.com/swf/mick2.mp3 .

    This old bloke's understatement of what he went through is almost heartbreaking.

    Old Mick's story deserves to be heard far and wide.
     
  10. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

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    Guys, the first video preview of the film is up on youtube.

    Cheers
     
  11. Mojito

    Mojito One Too Many

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    Location:
    Sydney
    Amazing stuff, mclmm - I've come to know some of the Z-Specials through a close association with the Krait (including some of the originals from Jaywick), and I'll bring this new footage to the attention of the institution I work for - our navy curator and Director will be very interested indeed if they're not already aware of it.
     
  12. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

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    Location:
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    Interesting that they seem to have been issued with the MkV Sten gun rather than the Owen gun.
     
  13. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

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    That would be great if you'd let em know Mojito, we've got just over an hour of this stuff and when the DVD is ready, we'd be happy to provide each of the Z-Specials with complimentary copies. It's the least we could do.

    H.Johnson, that weapon is an AUSTEN (Aus STEN), a home-grown variant. Basically a MKII STEN with different furniture and a coat of yellow and green paint. I'm pretty sure the AUSTEN pre-dates the STEN MKV. Several of the Z Specials we've spoken to weren't terribly impressed with the AUSTEN, especially when the Owen machine carbine was available and in use by line Digs. The AUSTEN had exactly the same limitations as the STEN - jammed easily, the magazine hanging out the side made it cumbersome in close country and the cheap construction meant it rusted quickly (especially internally) in a tropical environment. It seems to have been a political decision. The STEN is what SOE used so if it was good enough for them...
     
  14. H.Johnson

    H.Johnson One Too Many

    Messages:
    1,562
    Location:
    Midlands, UK
    Yes, that makes sense. I forgot about the Austen - I can see the differences between it and the later models of Sten gun in the grips and stock. I think you're right that the Austen was developed earlier.

    To me, the MkV Sten gun is a classic example of 'losing the plot'. Just about he (only?) things the early Sten had going for it were lightness, ease of construction and concealability (by disassembly) - all good traits in an special forces weapon. Its disadvantages are as you name them.

    The MkV was heavier, harder to produce and couldn't easily be concealed. Brilliiant thinking. Meanwhile a man named Patchet was trying to get his improved version of the Sten adopted. It was trialled in action in 1944 and was well liked, having overcome many of the Sten's faults. But,as the Patchet gun was a private venture, the MkV Sten was adopted instead. The Patchet (or Sterling as it was known later) was finally adopted in the middle 50s and served well until the middle 80s. As they say, go figure.

    There is a leter version of the Owen gun that resembles the Sterling to a certain extent, I believe?

     
  15. mclmm

    mclmm New in Town

    Messages:
    26
    Location:
    Australia
    Hi everyone, just thought I'd run an update on the status of the DVD...

    It's ready (finally).

    We've crunched it, colour corrected it and finally spat it out on one of those silvery plastic coaster-looking things.

    I have cut a trailer for it which will be available on YouTube as soon as it uploads.

    I'll edit this post and embed the trailer if it lets me. If not, I'll post a link.

    RudyN, there's a copy sitting here with your name on it. Just visit the website referenced in the end credits of the trailer and we'll sort you out.

    Mojito, I've been in contact with Horrie Young, Keith Stringfellow and Henry Fawkes about the DVD as well as our other materials. Incidentally, Mr Young appears in the film in his Navy dress uniform on horseback of all things. For those who don't know the name, Horrie Young was the radiotelegrapher on board the MV Krait during the Jaywick raid on Singapore Harbour. After that mission he was sent to the Fraser Commando School (where this film was shot) as a signals instructor before being reassinged to the Navy proper. I'm burning about 50 video and data DVDs which I'll be presenting to members of the Z Special Unit Association and their families at their ANZAC day lunch in Sydney this year. Receiving that invitation was one of the highest honours... Just being there in that room with these great men will be something I will tell my grandchildren about.
     

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