Commando News Spring17

awmedia

Brown’s fledgling organisation in WA referred to itself,

correctly, as Services Reconnaissance Department, or

SRD Association. This terminology was also adopted

by a sister organisation in NSW, formed the following

year.

The secrecy surrounding SOA was such that

members of the West Australian SRD Association

believed that Z Special Unit was actually the parent

organisation, subdivided into SRD, AIB, M Special Unit,

FELO and NEFIS. For Anzac Day 1949, this ‘informa -

tion’ was distributed to the press.

The SRD Association in WA was responsible,

however, for erecting possibly the only correctly named

special operations’ memorial in Australia - The Services

Reconnaissance Department Memorial on Garden

Island, south of Perth. Overlooking Careening Bay and

SOA’s wartime maritime training camp, the memorial

lists the names of those who died while carrying out

SOA/SRD missions, along with Len Siffleet, who was

actually attached to AIB.

much so that it was down to 23 members in 1974 when

Keith Scarff, who had also served with SOA’s

Instructional and Camp staff, broke away and formed

his own organization. He called it ‘Z Special Force

Australia’ and invited Jack Wong Sue, another

disaffected member of the original association, to

become Chairman of the new organisation. Z Special

Force Australia adopted as its emblem a stylized

commando dagger through a Z, and also issued

badges to members featuring a gold or silver Z. Other

state organisations adopted a similar logo to WA,

based on the traditional commando knife.

WA’s Z Force Association

Australia symbol

Z Special Unit Association

Victoria

The SRD Memorial at Garden Island WA

The publicity surrounding the unveiling led to the

publication of more erroneous information and claims,

including several attributed to Jack Sue, who was said

to have loaded rice on Japanese warships while

dressed as a coolie and that his SOA party, after

observing POWs in their camps and toiling through the

jungle on one of the infamous ‘death marches’, had

snatched Australian POWs from the column and taken

them to safety. Neither of these claims is correct.

After Ednie-Brown’s death, leadership issues arose

and membership of the SRD Association dwindled, so

As no WW2 covert organisations, including SOA

and its Z Special administrative unit, had any wartime

colour patch or insignia, these dagger and Z emblems

are purely post-war, ex-service affectations.

Z Force was a catchy title and it was not long before

the WA members who joined the new organisation

were referring to themselves as ‘Z Men’. The term Z

Force was also picked up and embraced by others,

including the president of Z Special Unit Association

NSW - an imposter who claimed to have served with

SOA. During his 10 years of misrule, ‘Z Force’ was

popularised and gained credence. Although, in the

1960s the names ‘Z Special Force’ and ‘SRD’ were

dropped in favour of ‘Z Special Unit Association’ by the

various State groups, ‘Z Force’ had entered the public

arena and was here to stay.

More than seventy years on, with the proliferation of

countless websites dealing with covert missions,

confusion about the roles of Z and M Special Units is far

greater than in wartime. Much of the erroneous

material appearing on them is due to a failure to carry

out basic research and the reliance on ‘information’

distributed or promoted by ‘Z’ ex-service organi sa -

tions. It was only in 2016 that the Australian War

Memorial gave an undertaking to correct misleading

information displayed in the Museum’s galleries. Other

errors cannot be so readily fixed, especially those set in

bronze or stone. For example, a handsome bronze

plaque at ‘Airlie’, SOA’s wartime headquarters,

donated by Z Special Unit Association Victoria and

featuring the Z and dagger, states:

“During World War II ‘Airlie’ was headquarters for

Special Operations Australia, also known as ‘Z’ Special

12 COMMANDO NEWS ~ Edition 11 I September 2017

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