Episode 1 – “JAYWICK and RIMAU”
In this premiere episode we cover the oft-trod ground of Operations JAYWICK and RIMAU. Operation JAYWICK was the audacious 1943 raid on enemy shipping in Singapore Harbour by Z operatives working out of an old ex-Japanese fishing vessel called the KRAIT. This episode explores the larger than life personalities involved in the mission, the training, and the technology used, while the men who were there tell the story of the mission in their own words. Operation RIMAU was the sequel to JAYWICK, but with a much larger party and with an emphasis on high-tech mini-submarines to deliver the operatives and their limpet mines to their targets. Planned with nearly possible eventuality taken care of, the large RIMAU party were still compromised and hunted down. None of the RIMAU Operatives survived the war.
Episode 2 – “Special Operations Australia”
This episode explores the origins of Special Operations Australia, and the inter-Allied jealousies and politics which almost saw the organisation disbanded before it its work had even really begun. The episode also explores the arduous training undertaken by the Z Men as well as the primitive technology they were forced to rely upon to perform their missions.
Episode 3 – “WALNUT”
In 1942, an Australian Army Captain and a loud and overbearing Danish civilian seafarer embarked on a secret mission to the Aroe Islands in what is now Indonesia to establish an intelligence network amongst the native population. Their mission was code-named Operation WALNUT. Months went by and no communications were ever established with the party. It was as if they had disappeared off the face of the earth. Soon enough the party were written off as “Missing, presumed Captured”. For the first time, the full story of the fate of Z’s WALNUT Party can be told. This episode explores the Men, their mission, the circumstances of their capture by the Japanese and their ultimate fate.
Episode 4 – “WHITING”
In 1944, as US forces invaded Hollandia in what is now known as Irian Jaya, several photographs were taken from the body of a dead Japanese officer. The most chilling of these photos showed a Caucasian serviceman kneeling in the sand with a Japanese soldier about to behead him with a samurai sword. This famous photograph depicted the last seconds of the life of Australian army Sergeant Len Siffleet, a former “Z” Operative who along with his party, had been captured near Ataipe in Papua New Guinea in 1943. This episode explores the events leading up to the compromise and capture of the Operation WHITING party and how, even in death, Sergeant Siffleet was able to serve his country in WWII.
Episode 5 – “PYTHON”
“Gort” Chester was a British Special Operations Executive officer seconded to Z. From the 1920s up to the time of the Japanese invasion in 1941, he had been a plantation manager in British North Borneo. With his intimate knowledge of the people, their customs and the terrain, Chester was selected to infiltrate behind Japanese lines to organise resistance groups and gather vital intelligence ahead of planned Allied landings. However, things don’t always go as smoothly as planned... This episode explores what it was like for a group of Z Operatives with a price on their head to spend six terrifying months on the run behind the lines.
Episode 6 - “PLATYPUS”
The PLATYPUS Project was undertaken in Dutch Borneo in support of the Australian invasion at Balikpapan. Various phases were inserted in order to create intelligence networks and native guerrilla forces, misdirect Japanese commanders as to the location of the invasion, beach recon and to act as a cut-off force for enemy lines of retreat or reinforcement after the invasion. In this episode we learn about the war hero who was captured by the enemy, the Z Party which was, by mistake, parachuted right on top of an active enemy camp, and the Z Operative who, as sole survivor of his party, was forced to escape and evade the enemy for almost a month with no supplies and with serious injuries from a botched parachute landing.
Episode 7 - “COPPER”
A party of Z operatives inserted by motor launch onto Muschu Island, about nine miles north of Wewak in New Guinea with orders to capture a Japanese soldier for interrogation and to perform reconnaissance of potential landing areas for an Allied invasion force. After capturing their prisoner, the party was compromised and split up. One group tried to float off the island on a makeshift raft but didn’t make it. Three of the remaining Operatives were killed in firefights with the Japanese, and the last Operative, Sapper “Mick” Dennis, embarked on an epic escape and evasion which saw him run the gauntlet of Japanese search parties, shark infested waters, and make it to New Guinea mainland. After fighting his way through Japanese patrols he finally linked up with an Australian patrol and was delivered to safety.
Episode 8 – “SEMUT”
In 1945, several parties of Australian, British, Canadian and New Zealand Z Operatives parachuted into Japanese-occupied Borneo. Their mission: to organise local Dyak tribesmen into an effective guerrilla army. This episode explores the Z Men, their mission and how, acting as the official representative of the pre-war colonial government in British North Borneo, one eccentric Englishman reinstated the traditional taboo practice of head hunting amongst the Dyaks. In less than 12 months, the Z Men of the SEMUT Project and their headhunter guerrilla army accounted for almost 1500 Japanese heads.
Episode 9 – “RAVEN”
In June 1945, a team of Z Operatives were inserted by flying boat behind Japanese lines in the Celebes in what is now Indonesia. Their mission was to ascertain the fate of the crew of a US Navy aircraft which had been forced down in the area two weeks earlier. Having determined that the US Navy aircrew had been captured and executed, the party set out for its exfiltration point to meet the pick-up aircraft. On the way, the party was betrayed by terrified locals and ran into a large group of Japanese soldiers determined to capture or kill them. This episode tells the story of Operation RAVEN. It includes vivid accounts of the mission and the resulting firefight by several survivors of the operation.
Episode 10 – “POLITICIAN”
After the rescue of the PYTHON party by a US Navy Submarine, the US Navy proposed a joint operation where pairs of Z Operatives with folding kayaks would operate out of US Navy submarines on their normal war patrols. This plan would come to be known as the POLITICAN Project, and it created an unlikely bond between the US Navy submarine service and Australian Special Forces which persists today. This episode explores the missions of these submarine-borne commandos, and the circumstances surrounding the loss of several Operatives who are to this day listed as missing in action.
Episode 11 – “OPOSSUM”
Ternate, an island in the Halmaheras group in the Dutch Colony of the Netherlands East Indies, had long been an autonomous zone ruled by a Sultan. In early 1945, the Dutch authorities in Australia requested that Z assist them in rescuing the Sultan of Ternate who had been under house arrest since the Japanese invaded the island in 1942. A party of Z operatives was trained and dispatched to the area by PT boat in order to rescue the Sultan and bring him back to Australia for debriefing. This operation was code-named OPOSSUM. This episode explores Operation OPOSSUM and how in a lighting raid, the Sultan was extracted from right under the nose of the powerful Japanese garrison on Ternate Island.
Episode 12 – “LAGARTO”
In 1943, a Z Party led by a retired Portuguese army officer was inserted into Japanese-occupied Timor. Due to conflict within the group and plain bad luck, the party was compromised and hunted for months through the scrub of East Timor. Betrayed by pro-Japanese Timorese, the party was captured and its Australian army radio operator, Lieutenant Ellwood was forced by his captors to do the unthinkable... This episode explores Z’s disaster in Timor, the tragic, but remarkable story of Lieutenant Ellwood, a young Z Man forced by the Japanese to send false radio messages to Australia, and it explores the controversy surrounding SRD Headquarters’ failure to recognise Ellwood’s coded distress signals and its decision to continue parachuting operatives to their deaths or into the arms of the waiting Japanese Kempei Tai.
Episode 13 - “MPD - Missing Presumed Dead”
Wrapping up the series, this episode explores the stories of the ultimate fate of the Z Men who were posted as missing, presumed dead. We discover the fate of missing Operatives from Operations ROBIN (PLATYPUS 1), PLATYPUS VII, WALNUT, PYTHON, RIMAU, COPPER, RAVEN and POLITICIAN. The episode also looks at the legacy of the Z Men and how they have influenced today’s Australian Special Operations Forces.